Canada’s Northern House first 2010 “activation”

The heaviest Coke bottle ever: Life or Inuuq by Jerry Ell at Canada Northern House.

The heaviest Coke bottle ever: Life or Inuuq, three feet of solid granite by Jerry Ell at Canada Northern House.

I expected the polar bear, the arctic wolf, the extraordinary wilderness videos, but not the three-and-a-half foot solid granite Coke bottle engraved with images from Inuit life.

But it’s all there in Canada’s Northern House, the first exhibition space to be “activated” for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The two-floor pavilion opened today.

Like most Canadians, I spend most of my life with my back turned to the north, although that’s where most of our country and much of our future lies. I’ve visited the Western Arctic on a single occasion, Yellowknife twice, Nunavut never.

But Northern House, a joint project of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut made me want to pack up and go.

The space at 602 West Hastings includes a remarkable art gallery with a number of modern Inuit masterpieces, including one centred on a carved narwhal tusk.

Upstairs, it’s all about a remarkably beautiful and often icebound land, home to about 100,000 people, now producing gold, diamonds and much else. It’s well worth a visit.

The Coke bottle? It’s one of 14 commissioned by Coca Cola to be auctioned off at the Games to benefit the Aboriginal Youth Legacy Fund.