Blog / Archives / December 2015

Connection and Collaboration are top of mind for the Chu Niikwän Artist Residency

Connection and Collaboration are top of mind for the Chu Niikwän Artist Residency

We sat down with the team behind the Chu Niikwän Artist Residency to learn more about this new addition to Yukon artist opportunities.


How did this residency come to be?

The idea of this residency emerged out of a session that YAC held at the Old Fire Hall last fall with various Yukon artists. The participants requested more opportunities to collaborate and to increase the visibility and value placed on non-commercial visual arts. Bringing together the Yukon Arts Centre, Yukon Art Society and Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre to administer this project helped to broaden the audience and introduces a level of complexity, considering the different mandates of each organization.

This residency is very thematic around the Yukon River, can you talk more about that?

Working collaboratively is a major aspect of this residency. When we considered locations where the partnering organizations could host the residencies, the river was the obvious connection. Having each of the residencies within walking distance of one another creates more opportunities to speak, share and collaborate.

Is this the first curatorial residency in the Yukon?

It’s not the first. The Yukon Art Society hosted a curatorial residency in 2013. But creating opportunities for emerging curators in the Yukon is something we should be paying attention to and offering. 

Why do you think it’s important to offer curatorial residencies as well as artistic residencies?

We need more curators in the Yukon and the North in general! Curation is a communication tool, an avenue of sharing, a way to support artists and to connect work within an art history framework. Curators are able to share a perspective, be an activist, imbue meaning and talk to a community. It was essential to include a role for an emerging curator within the Chu Niikwän residency program because it’s important for Yukoners to develop these skills and feel confident stepping into leadership roles. There are more opportunities to curate in the Yukon than people might think.

This is a paid residency! Can you expand on why that was an important aspect for the organizers?

It was very important to us to be able to offer the time and space for artist to take creative risks without having to consider financial penalties. Many professional and emerging artists work with the constant pressure to develop work for market and this residency was created in hope that artists would feel they had the time and resources to explore new techniques and expand their practice.

Anything else?


Art Explorations’ exhibit in the ATCO Electric Youth Gallery

Art Explorations’ exhibit in the ATCO Electric Youth Gallery

Jack Hulland Grade 1s in the ATCO Electric Youth Gallery

Jack Hulland Grade 1s in the ATCO Electric Youth Gallery

The opening reception for this exhibition will be on May 10th, 2018 from 4:00pm-5:30pm at the Yukon Arts Centre.

Looking for: Creative Contractors

Looking for: Creative Contractors

Whether you're a writer, editor, videographer, or painter - we are always looking for Yukoners with creative skills to work with us across a wide variety of projects. If you're available for contracts, we encourage you to submit the following:

  • A one page summary of you creative skills sets
  • A portfolio, or link, to your previous work
  • Your rate of pay, and availability (ie. gone in the summer)


Some of the skill sets we're looking for include:

  • graphic design
  • photography
  • videography
  • illustration
  • theatre technition
  • writing
  • editing
  • animation

As the Yukon Territory's premiere arts centre, we want to provide opportunites for Yukon creatives, and ensure that creative industries are fairly compensated for their work. While submitting an application for contract may not guarantee we call you right away, we're hoping to establish a solid database of Yukoners available for a lot of creative work that goes into promoting and documenting arts in the Yukon.

Please submit all Contractor Proposal to our Marketing and Development Manager, Sarah Frey HERE

Claire Strauss on her new work, and dealing with death differently

Claire Strauss on her new work, and dealing with death differently

Sarah Frey | May 2, 2018


As I sit down with Claire Strauss to talk about her upcoming show Masking Death and Life, I realize that our public setting may have not been the best option to discuss the recent passing of her husband, part of the inspiration for the work, and the overall subject of death. But after our conversation, I realize that part of Claire’s work is to encourage society to acknowledge life’s finiteness, and the coffee shop eavesdroppers may have been impacted by our conversation around the work’s central message.

Masking Death and Life is a collection of masks that Claire created in response to the passing of her father while she was in University, and more recently, the death of her partner, James Kirby. “I found that using language to express how I was feeling was just so limiting” says Claire. “The masks are a medium that are so much better at unfolding abstract ideas.”


“I found that using language to express how I was feeling was just so limiting”

We took the conversation a step back, and talked about traditional western death culture. “After someone dies, there’s this checklist” explains Claire. “Call the funeral home, call the obituary [section], book the plot. The mask making for me was going beyond the checklist.” In the months leading to her partner James’ passing, ‘going beyond the checklist’ was a significant process in how the two came to terms with the mortality that they were about to face. With creating art being a large part of their lives, James’ diagnosis sparked them to get more involved with how they were going to dictate their own death culture. Together they made James a casket, and took photographs of his sugar-skull painted face, an exploration into the Mexican death culture practice.

Claire continues, “We don’t use a lot of masks in our culture. So when I first started making them, I was surprised at the support for people being interested in the medium, as well as the idea.” While our society tends to think of the use of masks in grief in order to hide or abstract what you’re feeling, Claire’s work aims to call attention to your emotion, and own it. 


Winter Kiss, by Claire Strauss

In making the masks, Claire took a great deal of inspiration from her own feelings and from the images of death and decay in the natural world. “We have seasons inside us” explains Claire. “I believe that if we find a healthier way to face death, we’ll have [lives with] less regret.”

When asked what she hopes people will take away from her show, Claire shares: “I hope that they think and ask about their own death, and realize it’s not so scary. Life is not about having a bucket list, it’s just about recognition.”

Masking Death and Life is dedicated to James Kirby’s life, and opens in the Yukon Arts Centre’s Community Gallery, May 4th at 7pm. Special thanks from Claire Strauss to the ongoing support of Arts Underground, Patrick Royle for use of his studio, and to Telek Rogan, Hannah Zimmering, and Kelly Kirby.