When Regina lawyer Dr. Morris C. Shumiatcher (OC SOM QC) purchased his first piece of Inuit sculpture in 1954, he described it as “a case of love at first sight.” Since then, he and his wife Jacqui have developed one of the most significant private collections of Inuit art in Canada. In September 2014, the University of Regina announced the promised donation by Dr. Jacqui Shumiatcher (SOM CM) of over 1,000 artworks collected by Jacqui and her late husband.
Throughout their lives, Drs. Morris and Jacqui Shumiatcher have been among Saskatchewan’s leading community builders, social justice advocates, and patrons of the arts. Not surprisingly, their collection contains a wealth of work by some of the province’s most significant artists. A friendship with Kenneth Lochhead (1926-2006), first Head of the School of Art at Regina College (now the University of Regina), resulted in the Shumiatchers acquiring the largest private collection of his work in Canada. Other Regina Five members, as well as subsequent generations of Western Canadian artists, are well represented in their collection. Complementing their passion for Inuit art is a selection showing a strong interest in the work of contemporary First Nations artists, including prominent figures such as Norval Morrisseau and Allen Sapp. Finally, a representation of work from around the world provides a record of the Shumiatchers’ many travels and international connections.
In 1946, friends advised me of an ad in the Leader Post of a position at the Legislative Building: Dr. M.C Shumiatcher, lawyer, advertising for an assistant. I applied and made an appointment to meet him in his office. He had interviewed 30 applicants over as many days… which made me a bit nervous. A day later he phoned to advise me that the position was mine.
Nine years after their first professional meeting, Jacqueline “Jacqui” Fanchette Clotilde Clay married Dr. Morris “Shumy” Cyril Shumiatcher, forming a partnership that was to have a profound effect on the city of Regina and beyond. Born in Pas de Calais, France, Jacqui’s family later emigrated to Canada. After a stint in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Morris followed in his father’s footsteps and became a prominent barrister, whose busy practice was supported by Jacqui via in her administrative role and later, her managerial business. Among the many highlights of Morris’ legal career were his role as Law Officer, Dept. of Attorney-General, counsel to Tommy Douglas, authorship of the 1947 Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, and work within the area of Aboriginal law. His contribution to the wider legal field included university lectures and the publication of two books, Assault on Freedom (1962) and Man of Law: A Model (1979).
Together, Jacqui and Morris’ patronage had a huge impact on countless organisations and individuals nationally and provincially. Their generosity has focused particularly on the cultural sphere, reflecting their longstanding passion for the arts in all their forms. The University of Regina has been just one recipient of this remarkable philanthropy. The MacKenzie Art Gallery’s Shumiatcher Sculpture Court comprises a donation of a number of Inuit artworks. At the University, two graduate fellowships, the Shu-Box Theatre, College Avenue Campus Revitalisation Project, and the donation of the Shumiacher Art Collection bear their legacy. Morris passed away in 2004, and Jacqui continues to be an active and honoured member of the cultural community.