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Behind the Scenes with YAC Staff: Jessica Vellenga

Behind the Scenes with YAC Staff: Jessica Vellenga

Jessica Vellenga (left) and Casey Lee (right) of Yarn Bomb Yukon, yarn bombing the DC-3 airplane. Photo Credit: Kyle G Cameron


Jessica Vellenga, curator of the summer exhibition ‘Jim Robb’s Yukon’, has a passion for both community and art, and works tirelessly to connect the two.  This aspiration is most evident in YAC’s public programs. Has your child created a masterpiece at a Kids Kreate Workshop? Presented their artwork in the Youth Gallery? Have you shown your own art in the Community Gallery? Attended an art talk, lecture, tour, workshop, class or event? If you said yes to any of these, then you have benefitted from Jessica’s persistence and passion for promoting culture in our community. As Visual Arts Community Engagement Coordinator for the Yukon Arts Centre, and an artist in her own right, Jessica is focused on bringing art outside the Gallery, and inspiring individuals and groups to be curious and creative. 

With such a pivotal role at YAC and within our community, we thought it was about time that the public get to know Miss Vellenga, so we talked with Jessica about her long time love affair with the arts.

Connect people with art.

A job which allows me to work on many different projects, with the main goal of encouraging the public to engage with visual arts at the Yukon Arts Centre through a variety of programs.

Curation of the Community & Yukon Electrical Youth Gallery, public and school tours, planning Kids Kreate – our free family art class, creating community art exhibits, organizing our resource library, social media promotion of YAC Gallery, shipping and receiving, artist liaison, working with community partners to develop art experiences, exhibition planning and installation, writing grants and budgets.

Always being involved in the creative culture of the Yukon community, but also meeting and working with national and international artists. 

I’m a practicing artist and started working in galleries to better understand how to make and market my art.  My first gallery job was learning to frame and sell artworks and from there my cultural career has continued. I’ve worked for artist run centres, public art galleries, commercial art galleries, on public art projects, and contracts in collections management in both Ontario and Yukon.

I have my B.A. in Fine Art, with a minor in Art History, specializing in contemporary art from McMaster University and the University of Leeds, UK.

Yarn Bombing the DC-3 airplane with the Yukon Transportation Museum and Yarn Bomb Yukon was definitely a highlight!

This is it!  It’s a perfect balance between my career as an artist and cultural worker.

Behind-the-Scenes with YAC Staff: Al Cushing (Part 1)

Behind-the-Scenes with YAC Staff: Al Cushing (Part 1)

Lifelong cultural worker and CEO of the Yukon Arts Centre since 2008, Al Cushing works ceaselessly to support arts and culture in the Yukon. In his words, Cushing is dedicated to making the Yukon Arts Centre a community-based entity that supports visual and performing arts in our territory.

Last month, Cushing was involved in planning and directing the Yukon Arts Presenters Summit, a major capacity building exercise, and is currently working on the Sound Bites Campaign, a $350,000 project to replace the aging sound system at the Yukon Arts Centre.

We asked our CEO a few questions about his role at the Yukon Arts Centre. Here is what he had to say:

Chief Executive Officer, or in less grandiose terms Executive Director, or theatrically The Lord High Everything Else

The buck stops here!

Those unique moments when the art we present, showcase or produce touches a heart or a soul.  The student that will go on to music school because they had the chance to play on our stage:  the child whose stands in awe before a painting: the audience member that leaves the theatre in tears, of laughter or empathy.

I was infected with the Theatre bug in high school by a brilliant English professor, Andrew Garrod.  Mr. Garrod believed that the arts could and should be transformative and they have been.  Mr. Garrod, much later in life, went to the former Yugoslavia and directed a youth production of Romeo and Juliet in Mostar; casting Bosnians and Serbs.

YAC was a great opportunity to make a difference.  There is also a long story that ends with a fortune cookie that said, “Leaving the nest will lead to great adventure”.  But, that will cost you a beer.

The amazingly creative community!

I was blown away by last season’s presentation of Terminus.  In the Gallery I was fascinated by the Jane Isakson/Jennifer Walden exhibition.  The problem with this question is that there have been so many amazing events at YAC in the last six years it is impossible to really choose one that stands out above all the rest.

Apply to be the CEO of the Yukon Arts Centre.

Behind-the-Scenes: Lianne Maitland

Behind-the-Scenes: Lianne Maitland

Lianne Maitland moved to the Yukon a year ago this month! Part of the RBC Museum Internship for Emerging Professionals program, Lianne worked with our gallery team on a number of projects. Without doubt, her biggest impact was the planning of Culture Days in the Yukon where she put her amazing organizational skills to use. While she finished at YAC last fall, we are pleased to say she stayed in the Yukon as the Program Administrator at Arts Underground and is an active board member of Yukon Comic Culture Society which is presenting YukomiCon!


From the Canadian Museums Association Blog:

Each year, the RBC Museum Internship for Emerging Professionals program offers an enhanced learning experience for emerging museum professionals. For a period of four to six months, interns benefit from practical skills development in a professional and supervised setting. The internships take place in museums or art galleries located in the city where the CMA National Conference is to be hosted each year. This means that both 2013 interns had the rare opportunity to work in Whitehorse, Yukon! We’ve asked last year’s interns to answer some questions about their experiences.

In part 1 of 2 in this blog post series, Lianne Maitland, a recent graduate of the Masters of Museums Studies program at the University of Toronto, provides a glimpse into her life as an intern:

What did your RBC internship consist of?
My position was Gallery Outreach Intern at the Yukon Arts Centre (YAC) Public Art Gallery, in which I worked with staff and community partners to manage art programs and community collaborations. I also assisted with collection management and administrative tasks. Since the Gallery team is small, I did a bit of everything! My main project, however, was coordinating Culture Days and Doors Open alongside other YAC staff and the Yukon Historical and Museums Association.

What was your favourite aspect of the internship?
Getting to know the arts community of Yukon. There is something special about Yukon that draws artists from all over Canada and beyond, which is probably why when I first arrived in Whitehorse it seemed like every second person I met was an artist (even those I met outside of work). What's particularly striking about the local arts community is how varied it is, and how engaged it is with the community as a whole. Working at YAC meant that I contributed to that engagement, and of course got to be right in the middle of it all.

Read the rest of Lianne's interview here

Photo: Lianne Maitland with the original Ted Harrison illustrations for The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee, which are part of the Yukon Arts Centre's Permanent Collection. (Photo credit: Yukon Arts Centre)

Behind-the-scenes with Volunteers: Lynn LeBarge

Behind-the-scenes with Volunteers: Lynn LeBarge

City councillor Betty Irwin (l) and Lynn LeBarge (r) at the 2013 Volunteer of the Year awards held by the City of Whitehorse.                                                                               

The Yukon Arts Centre is blessed to have an outstanding crew of over 100 dedicated volunteers that share our passion and commitment to arts and culture in the Yukon.  These amazing individuals take time out of their own personal schedules to assist with countless events, programs and performances. In fact, much of what YAC does can only happen through their enthusiastic participation.  We thought it was about time that we shared our awesome volunteer team with the public; and what a better time to premiere our ‘Behind-the- Scenes with Volunteers’ than during National Volunteer Week!

National Volunteer Week (April 6 – 12, 2014) is an annual celebration of Canada’s 13.3 million volunteers.  The City of Whitehorse honoured its own volunteers this week by asking organizations to nominate candidates for ‘Volunteer of the Year’.  YAC’s  nominee, Lynn LeBarge, has been part of the Arts Centre team for over 19 years. She is also the creator of the Volunteer Voucher Program, which allows volunteers to donate their complimentary ticket vouchers to deserving local organizations. So far, thanks to Lynn’s great idea, Kaushee's Place (Yukon Women's Transition Home) has received tickets on behalf of our ever generous volunteers.  On the eve of her award, we chatted with Lynn about her experiences and the impetus behind her extensive volunteering.

What do you do as a volunteer here at YAC?

I am on a Front of House team. I usually work Coat Check, but have also ushered several times.  I can't read the tickets without my glasses, though!

You have been a volunteer at YAC for over 19 years. How/Why did you decide to volunteer here specifically?

I really enjoy live theatre, and the chance to see performances while doing something good for my community really appeals to me. 

What other organizations or events have you volunteered for?

I am currently a volunteer with Girl Guides of Canada as a Spark Guider.  I am completing my 38th year with GGC (as a girl and adult).  I help the Ladies of the Eastern Star fold bandages for cancer patients.  I knit blankets, hats, scarves and mittens for places like the Pediatric Unit at the Hospital, Kaushee's Place, and anywhere else where children may be in need of comfort.  I was a volunteer with the Klondike Road Relay for 22 years, working at a checkpoint, usually in the middle of the night.  I volunteer with the Terry Fox Run every year.  I was involved with Yukon Women In Trades and Technology since their founding in 2000, serving on the Board of Directors until a couple of years ago.  I am still a member but not quite as active right now.  I was the chair of the Mascot Committee for the Canada Winter Games and worked for 1.5 years prior to the Games recruiting and training mascot performers, as well as performing in the costume myself.  I volunteered every day of the Games for about 12 hours per day to keep the Mascot Program going strong.  I was a volunteer for the Arctic Winter Games in 2012, working in the Public Relations area.  This isn't an exhaustive list, but it does hit the highlights!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time – if you have any spare time that is?!

I enjoy reading, watching movies and walking.  I also have cats and enjoy spending time with them.  I make my own greeting cards and do a fair bit of sewing as well.

What did you do prior to becoming a volunteer?

I have always been a volunteer, since I can remember.  My father was very committed to his community, and passed that along to me.  I can't imagine my life without volunteer activities.

Your favourite thing about the Yukon?

I love living here!  It is such a vibrant community, while at the same time being very relaxed and friendly.  The scenery is beautiful and the unending hours of daylight in the summer charge up my internal batteries to keep me going through the long winters.  My community gives me so much enjoyment that it only seems right to give something back that helps others enjoy it as much as I do.

If you are interested in getting involved in our community, check out Volunteer Bénévoles Yukon.

Want to join the Yukon Arts Centre’s volunteer team? Visit this page for more information.

Behind-the-scenes: Scott Price

Behind-the-scenes: Scott Price

Since the closing of Jennifer Walden and Jane Isakson’s solo exhibitions, YAC’s gallery preparator Scott Price has been hard at work, preparing for last Thursday’s opening of Michele Karch-Ackerman, Helen O’Connor and Rosemary Scanlon’s solo exhibitions.

Artwork was carefully jigsaw-ed back into crates and packed for shipping. Walls were patched, painted and moved (that’s right, moved!). Lights were re-hung and re-directed. And only then did the real work begin: installation!

Our latest exhibitions in the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery incorporate some fairly unique features, including 98 floating onesies, a suspended film screen made of handmade paper, and unframed artworks mounted with magnets. As with any exhibition, much of the artistry involved with installation is unknown to the public, but in this behind-the-scenes look, we hope to reveal the creativity and craftmanship that makes every show possible. We talked to Scott about his experience as our resident preparator.

1) What is a gallery preparator? 

A person who installs art in an art gallery, works with the artist to make sure the work is presented in the best manner and light possible.

2) What are some of your responsibilities?

Some of my responsibilities include uncrating and unpacking the artwork when it arrives at the Arts Centre. I inspect the art (condition report it), hang it and light it and put up all the artists’ information including the title of show.

3) What is an average day for you?

An average day includes preparing space for the artwork, working with artists when they arrive on site, helping them become acquainted with the space and how their artwork will show in it.

4) What is the most exciting thing about your job?

The most exciting thing about my work is doing what I do, trouble shooting on the spot, hanging out and working with artists from the Yukon and across the country. I really like my job – the variety and the challenges.

5) What is a popular misconception about your job?

A misconception is that artwork is just there and people don’t realize the amount of work behind the scenes to get the work up on the wall – the amount of cooperative work to get a show up.

6) How did you get into this career?

I got this job by being who I am, by knowing the things I know. I am an artist and carpenter and these experiences I bring to the job. My first show was a result of being asked by the previous preparator to step in while he was doing other training. From there, I was later asked to take the job full time.

7) What is the weirdest thing you have installed for an exhibition?

The weirdest thing I’ve ever installed was a bunch of small houses held up with big chicken feet. The show also had a lot of other stuff, including painted chicken eggs and strange rabbits – but the fact that it was so obsessive made it such an amazing show.

8) What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about this job is the variety of art I get to handle and the people I get to meet.

9) Can you tell us what is unique about the latest exhibitions in the gallery?

Unique about the next shows: Michele’s intensive investigative research into her subject matter and the heartfelt responsive selection of material and form in which her images present. Helen’s show is warm and joyful and shows her comfort of form, fitting herself into the work. Rosemary’s concentrated illustrative style weaves wondrous spirited metaphysical landscapes.


Remember to check out Scott's presentation of  ART THAT INSPIRES at our pecha kucha style event in the Old Fire Hall on Tuesday, March 18th!