Success Story: Couple behind $1 million Dennos gift love Inuit art and people

December 16, 2015

Dudley and Barb SmithInuit art lovers Dudley and Barb Smith know their collection intimately.

There’s the walrus sculpture in the foyer of their Suttons Bay home, the one they turn around when their youngest grandson visits, so his two-year-old fingers stay safe from the sharp tusks.

In their shared office, there’s the caribou that presides between the desks. On the bedroom wall there’s Barb Smith’s favorite print, of a mother bear and two cubs. On the mantle there’s the transformation sculpture that Dennos Museum Center executive director Gene Jenneman helped their kids choose as an anniversary gift. On the shelves surrounding the fireplace — which they had strengthened to support the weighty  stone sculptures  — are pieces collected on other travels, to Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Santa Fe, over the 30 years since the couple first fell in love with Inuit art at the Dennos Museum.

Now, the Smiths are affording the opportunity for more people to appreciate the art of the aboriginal Canadian Arctic people, with a $1 million gift that will more than double the gallery space for the Dennos’ signature collection of Inuit art.

“It is hard to beat what we have at the museum,” Barb Smith said. “It’ll be nice to see more of it.”

The addition will wrap around the existing Inuit gallery.  It will also add space for the Dennos Museum Store and storage for the Inuit collection, which now includes nearly 1,500 works. Started by librarian Bernie Rink in 1960, the growth of the Inuit collection was a driving force behind the creation of the Dennos Museum Center 25 years ago.

“What a fitting way to celebrate our anniversary, by honoring the very artwork that built a reputation for the Dennos as an international leader,” Jenneman said. “This expansion will allow us to grow and refine our collection, securing the Dennos as one of the noted museums world wide for Inuit art.”

Dudley SmithPer their estate plans, eventually the expanded gallery will house the walrus, the caribou, and the rest of the Smiths’ collection, which reflects both Barb Smith’s affinity for animal imagery and Dudley’s for the native people.

“I like the primitive nature of the art, the shaman images,” he said.

Construction for the Inuit gallery expansion as well as the addition of two new galleries at the Dennos is expected to begin in 2016.

Read more about the Smiths’ gift here »

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