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Yukon Arts Centre’s Chief Executive Officer, Al Cushing, Retiring March 31, 2017

Yukon Arts Centre’s Chief Executive Officer, Al Cushing, Retiring March 31, 2017

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Yukon Arts Centre, Chair, Deb Bartlette, would like to thank Al Cushing for more than nine successful years as Yukon Arts Centre’s CEO and wishes him well in retirement. “Al has provided the Yukon Arts Centre Board, staff and volunteers with dedicated and visionary service and we have all grown under his leadership. He helped us to think of the Yukon Arts Centre not just as a building, but a resource in service to the whole of Yukon’s vibrant cultural community. His capacity to bring out the best in people ensured good working relationships with all stakeholders and we are grateful for his time here.”
Mr. Cushing will be retiring as of March 31st, 2017.
Under Mr. Cushing’s flexible and facilitative leadership, the Yukon Arts Centre, Board and staff, wrote and adopted visionary “Ends Statements”, which guide the ongoing work of the Yukon Arts Centre. As one of the best known performing arts facilitators in North America, Jerry Yoshitomi, stated: “the Yukon Arts Centre is one of the most innovative and effective arts centres in North America.” The Yukon Arts Centre has become known as a mecca for performing and visual arts in this country, and as one of the most significant performing spaces in Canada. 
Mr. Cushing was also instrumental in expanding the Yukon Arts Centre’s performing/exhibition spaces to include the Old Fire Hall and the Wharf in downtown Whitehorse, and the Art House in Carcross. Strong partnerships with Yukon First Nations, the Whitehorse’s business community and Yukon Government, allowed the Centre to expand operations and add more versatile options for performance and exhibition space.
Mr. Cushing came to Yukon after more than thirty-five years working in virtually all areas of Canadian theatre including: scene design, stage management, sound & lighting & stage technician (Ottawa and Vancouver), technical director (National Arts Centre), production manager (Manitoba Theatre Centre), company manager (JV Theatre Productions Calgary), and just prior to moving north, VP Operations at the Epcor Centre, Calgary, Alberta.
In addition to his extensive theatre experience, his deep knowledge of the visual arts has ensured the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery continues to be acknowledged as one of the leading galleries in Canada. National level exhibitions, artists’ support and community engagement projects continue to lead the country in innovative programming.
Cushing believed in the importance of national partnerships and he encouraged his staff to serve on many national associations. Cushing himself served on the boards of the Canadian Institute of Theatre Technology (CITT), Magnetic North Theatre Festival and the Cultural Human Resource Council. He was instrumental in supporting several national conferences and gatherings in Yukon including Break Out West, Canadian Museums Association and most recently the Magnetic North Theatre Festival and the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective
Deb Bartlette, speaking on behalf of the board stated: “The Yukon Arts Centre is a richer organization as a result of his time here. His commitment to his staff, to the Yukon’s cultural community, and his mindfulness of supporting art and artists, has always been topmost in his leadership style. Many of the ambitious goals he set for the organization were surpassed during his tenure. In particular, Al’s belief that the North has many things to teach Canadians has always been present in his work and is a legacy that will continue to shape Yukon Arts Centre into the future.”
A retirement party will be planned with details forthcoming closer to the time of Al’s departure. Details forthcoming.
The Yukon Arts Centre’s Board of Directors has formed a search committee to identify the next CEO.  They will be announcing details shortly.
For further information please contact YAC Board Chair, Deb Bartlette, 668-8715

Artwork Wednesday: Vancouver Theatre with Al.

Artwork Wednesday: Vancouver Theatre with Al.

Our CEO Al Cushing was recently in Vancouver and here is his report back.

We joined our Theatre consultant friend, Rob Hamilton, for  “Rite” presented by Ballet BC.

The signature piece, “Rite” which filled the first half of the evening was black on white, It was brilliantly choreographed by the Ballet BC artistic director Emily Molnar on a stunning textured off white set by Omer Arbel.  Usually an all white set is a recipe for a visual disaster, creating horrible challenges for the lighting designer.  However, here, the LD, James Proudfoot was able to overcome the challenges primarily because Kate Burrow’s costumes were in shades and textures of black. I found the work visually stimulating and emotionally engaging. I had two concerns; the lighting sometimes fought the choreography, changes in lighting texture competed with and failed to support the flow of the choreography: and, the soundscape although it worked well for the piece sounded to my ears like a hideous feedback loop that needed to be fixed.

I accept that the composer for “Rite” was probably trying to emulate the shock factor that Stravinsky had in 1913 when his Rites of Spring was presented in Paris.  However, he was no Stravinsky. 

The second half of the evening the now “traditional” Rites of Spring was equally strong, and featured white costumes on a black set.  Unfortunately, the unisex costume dresses did not do anything to add drama to the very fine and erotic choreography. 

All in all it was a stunning evening at the Queen Elizabeth theatre.

The next day, Saturday, acting on Eric Epstein’s advice we went to Granville Island to catch two pieces of theatre by an all female ensemble.  The matinee was “J Caesar”, a shortened adaptation of the Shakespeare’s play re-written for an all female cast.  The writing worked rather well, however James MacDonald’s direction brought the play to a fever pitch from the beginning and left no room for growth.  The Shakespearian language also seemed to be a challenge for some of the cast.  However, it was a worthwhile exercise in adaptation.

In the evening, the same company presented “Miss Shakespeare” a musical about women, notably Shakespeare’s daughter Judith, wanting to become thespians in an all male theatre world.  It was funny, touching and just plain fun.  Tracey Power wrote the book and lyrics; and also helped write the music with Steve Charles; both elements were very strong.  The performances were all very strong, the lighting effective and the simple set worked beautifully.

Both shows were at Performance Works, a delightful, small venue on Granville Island.  The shows will be moving to the Meek Centre in West Vancouver, opening on May 21.

Image: Miss Shakespeare. Photograph by: Bold Rezolution Studio