Jim & Sue Shirley


   Jim Shirley, the founder and coordnator of the Matchbox Gallery, was born and educated in New York City. He came to Canada in 1972, making his way up to what was then, the Northwest Territories. First involved as an Arts and Crafts Development Officer, he eventually went on to do graphic design and writing for organizations like the Inuit Cultural Institute, and the GNWT Department of Education. He also worked extensively as a journalist/photographer.

   He is the co-founder of the Matchbox Gallery which first opened its doors in March 1987. Most of the time that he wasn't involved in programming for the Matchbox, he worked as an artist and journalist, and as an arts instructor and program developer in the arts. His mural commissions are featured in public spaces throughout Canada. He has also done portrait commissions for Hamlet councils throughout the Kivalliq and the Baffin, and worked as an instructor at the university level, as well as community based programs in a wide range of locations- from Halifax to New York. Most recently, he and his wife Susan serve as program developers and instructors for the KCALs' Traditional Arts Workshop.

   His artistic approach is spiritual and visionary. Among his most noteworthy shows was a one-man show at the 55 Mercer Street Gallery in New York City, a major retrospective at the Mount St. Vincent's Art Gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia (both in the year 2000). He was also Artist-In Residence at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in 2001. His works are included in many public and private collections throughout Canada and the United States, including the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Mount St. Vincent's University Art Gallery, Dalhousie University Art Gallery, and the Canada Council Art Bank.


    Sue Shirley was born with a love of nature, and was drawn immediately to the undulating landsape of the Kivalliq Region when she arrive here in 1979. Always a landscape artist, working on-site and from direct observation. she has painted the arctic barrenlands and Hudson Bay as the ice breaks up, and through the summer months into the first snowfall on the multi-colored autumn tundra. For Sue, the Arctic landscape is like a being, communicating its changing moods, its revelations, its sense of continuity and interconnection. She explores vast spaces, which, over the years, have become friends with whom she has established a personal relationship, discovering views that best reflect the ever-changing moment of this unique and unpredictable land. While based in a summer tent camp or cabin, the many variations in sky, sea, and land can be observed and captured. These watercolors are the basis for oils and further landscape painting development throughout the year.

   Sue has been a leader and inspiration, an innovative administrator/instructor for Matchbox Gallery programs since the gallery was first opened in 1986. Presently a member of the Polar Arts Group, a collaborative of Canadian landscape artists, her works can be seen at the Matchbox Gallery in Rankin Inlet, and are part of the permanent collection of the legislative assembly of Nunavut.

   Ms. Shirley has a Bachelor of Science in Art Education from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York with further study in the Masters Program in Fine Arts at the Brooklyn College. For nearly a decade, she taught art in the New York City public school system before immigrating to Canada. Sue was twice a recipient of an NWT Arts Council Grant, was honored with showing of her work at the Prince of Wales Heritage Center, and at the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut. For 19 years, she did outstanding work as a Learning Resource Center Coordinator for the Regional Department of Education.


Video Interview

Jim & Sue Shirley in October, 2010 at The Matchbox Gallery, Rankin Inlet, Nunavut