FOR ARTS & CRAFTS
Return to Home
Print Shop Home Page
About John Houston
Profile of John Houston
Advisor to the Pangnirtung Printmakers, 1975-1979, 1994, 1998,
John Houston was born in 1954 and spent the first eight years of his life in the
Canadian Arctic at Cape Dorset, on Baffin Island. Early immersion in Inuit
culture has affected his entire life. While attending schools in England,
Ottawa, and later Pickering College in Ontario, John lost his fluency in
Inuktitut, but continued to think of the North as home, and spent several
summers on the land with Inuit friends. He got his first job in film as coffee
boy on Paramount Pictures' 1973 production of The White Dawn, the first novel by
his father, James A. Houston.
He graduated from Yale University in 1975, having spent an independent junior
year in Paris, printmaking at Atelier 17 while perfecting his French. In the
same year, artist Lipa Pitsulak offered him the position of Art Advisor to the
Pangnirtung Cooperative's printmaking project. He seized the opportunity to
return north and regain his Inuktitut. John enjoyed the position for nearly five
years, bringing out four remarkable graphics collections and the story idea for
Art of the Arctic Whalemen, a documentary film directed by his father for the
Devonian Foundation of Alberta.
After Pangnirtung filmmaking called again and he was off on a 20,000 mile trip
across the north, casting Inuit for the film Never Cry Wolf (Disney, 1982) on
which he worked with Carroll Ballard as First Assistant Director. Many films
followed, from Singapore to Siberia, including rejoining Ballard to film Fly
Away Home (Columbia, 1996), however, the north remains his favourite location.
With the proceeds from Never Cry Wolf John established Houston North Gallery in
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia with the help of his mother, the late Alma Houston, who
co-owned and operated the gallery until her death in December, 1997. John and
his mother were founders of the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival; an intimate,
international festival of music of the sea, set in a World Heritage Site. In its
21st year, Houston North Gallery continues to be a showcase for Inuit art.
Over twenty years of helping a succession of directors to realize their vision
has amounted to an apprenticeship in the craft of filmmaking. John Houston grew
up between two great oral traditions; the Inuit and the Celtic, and came to feel
it was time to tell his own stories. In 1998, John co-wrote and directed his
first film, an award-winning one-hour documentary about his parents, Inuit art
pioneers James and Alma Houston, the Inuit of Cape Dorset, and their very
special collaboration that launched Inuit art onto the world stage. When he told
executive producer Peter d'Entremont that Songs in Stone was in fact the
beginning of an Arctic trilogy, an award-winning film partnership began. John
and Peter have followed up with Nuliajuk: Mother of the Sea Beasts; a quest for
the ancient Inuit goddess, and are currently developing Diet of Souls; a look
inside the mind of the Inuit hunter, to complete the trilogy.
Dedicated to supporting Nunavut' emerging Film/TV/New Media industry, John
Houston has also been working with the Government of Nunavut and Inuit
organizations to facilitate visiting productions such as 'The Snow Walker,'
'Sleep Murder,' and 'Midnight Son.' He is also President of the recently formed
Ajjiit Nunavut Media Association, and part of the working group drafting
Government of Nunavut policy on Film/TV/New Media.
John lives with his wife Heather and baby Dorset in their Halifax heritage home.
Return to 1998 Pangnirtung
Print Collection home page
Return to Pangnirtung Print Shop home
Return to Uqqurmiut Centre home page
This page was last updated on
Monday February 21, 2005