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Power of the People: Yukon Arts Summit Makes Change

Power of the People: Yukon Arts Summit Makes Change

Breakout sessions brought people together to reflect and to pollinate new thinking.


By Inga Petri 

Article originally published on Strategic Moves Blog December 4, 2014 and reproduced with permission of the author. 


Over 100 performing and visual arts presenters from across Yukon gathered during four days in November to develop concrete action plans for a strong, unified arts sector. The summit was designed to create a space where all participants would shape the outcomes – at once encouraging collaboration and inviting each person’s leadership. It was remarkable to be a witness – and contributor – to this process.

The energy in the room was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  The work that got done, the plans that were committed to, will transform the way the Yukon arts and cultural communities work with each other, and present themselves to their stakeholders, the rest of Canada and beyond. People here not only dream big, they make big things happen. It seems they can’t help it; it is in their nature.

The summit outcomes will prove their transformative power over the next weeks, months and years.

Several key elements came together to create a summit like no other I have ever seen:

  • An attitude that set out to “Help the Best get Better” and that delivered. Indeed the best had gathered together at this summit: 100% of First Nations Cultural Centres attended, as well as 86% of the First Nations in the Yukon, and the same proportion of all the communities across the territory. All participants had a voice and used it, shared experiences, told stories and offered new thinking that could create significant change. Both performing and visual arts were actively included, and many artistic disciplines within these were well-represented. Presenters, producers, practicing artists, funders, board members and consultants all worked together throughout. Just imagine such a truly inclusive gathering of active, ready-to-work participants in BC, Ontario or the Maritimes!
  • Action-oriented summit design. There were only 5 presentations/ workshops during the summit: place-based cultural tourism, collaboration, network development, marketing and funding. Each was followed by three local responders, rather than the often used Q&A format, who reflected briefly on each presentation (what resonated, what didn’t and action items) , followed by professionally facilitated breakout sessions designed to connect, reflect and plan.
  • Deliberate creation of spaces for reflection, and spaces for action planning. This was ingenious. The summit organizers invited participants along this journey, always stretching themselves along the way, and by day 4, the work had been done to achieve agreement on several major community-led initiatives: to establish a collaborative network of presenters, create a touring network, establish a network for First Nations Cultural Centres; and to put the arts and cultural sector into the driver seat in terms of their contribution to Yukon tourism.

As an outside expert I was asked to participate in the whole conference. For me that meant there was a great deal of casual, hallway type conversation about anything that was on participants’ minds, mixed with formal opportunities to meet whether in a MatchUp program or over dinner. As a result I formed much deeper, richer connections with carefully thinking, smart people from all parts of Yukon, who were exploring how to use their understanding, new information and leadership for their communities’ benefit and the greater good. Listening and asking good questions can be much more powerful than speaking or telling.

My hope is that this new kind of close-knit, yet open network, grounded in shared leadership and personal commitments for specific actions, will become a beacon for established and new networks elsewhere.


Inga's work is nationally recognized for the landmark study on The Value of Presenting:  A Study of Performing Arts Presentation in Canada (©2013) commissioned by Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA) and for providing strategic insight, championing contemporary marketing practices, and delivering practical training in the arts sector.

To view the original article written December 4, 2014  please follow this link.

CMA Conference

CMA Conference

Last week, the Yukon Arts Centre had the pleasure of hosting a number of events for the 2013 Canadian Museums Association annual conference. Conference delegates were welcomed on Tuesday with a Yukon Showcase featuring several northern artists, including the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers, Kim Barlow, and Soir de Semaine. Many of you asked how can we buy their CD or find out more about them? Well we hope this blog post will help!

Dakhká Khwáan Dancers at Yukon Arts Centre - Yukon Government photo

Dakhká Khwáan Dancers

The Inland Tlingit and Tagish dance group, Dakhká Khwáan Dancers, was founded by Marilyn Jensen in Carcross in 2007 and has since gained significant acclaim. Although originally the group intended to tell the Tlingit creation myth through performance, by the end of their first summer in Carcross they had decided to expand their repertoire by learning more songs. Today the group has performed across Canada and Alaska, including two performances at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.


Kim Barlow performing luckyburden at Yukon Arts Centre - Yukon Government photo

luckyburden: Kim Barlow with film by Andrew Connors

Whitehorse-based, folk singer-songwriter Kim Barlow currently performs both solo and as a part of three ensembles, all-girl Canadian roots band Annie Lou, banjo-ukele duo Spring Breakup, and eclectic trio Blue Hibou. Her second album, Gingerbread, garnered her a 2003 Juno nomination for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year (Solo). During the Showcase, Barlow performed her moving concept piece luckyburden, combining videoby filmmaker Andrew Connors and song to tell the story of former mining community Keno City. The luckyburden album can be previewed or purchased through Barlow’s website.


Soir de Semaine at Yukon Arts Centre - Yukon Government photo

Soir de Semaine

Soir de Semaine is a Whitehorse-based music group founded in 2003 that blends Franco-rock with ska, reggae, folk, and funk in a unique music and stage experience complete with costumes and face-paint. The release of their first album, Toi du monde, in 2007 led the band to playing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and other major events. While the band plays mainly at music festivals, it also offers outreach programs for schools, providing education through music.

Toi du monde, as well 2011 album Faire de Voeux, can be previewed or purchased through Soir de Semaine’s website:  (English) or (Français).


The following day, the conference’s keynote speakers and fellows lecturer were introduced with style by the multi-talented Claire Ness, who acted as Master of Ceremonies. Ness is a Yukon comedian, singer-songwriter, cabaret producer/director, and circus artist/instructor. Ness performs in a variety of festivals, from music to burlesque to circus, as well as at comedy nights and in theatres. She recently launched her first album, Hopeless Romantic, at the Arts Centre on April 24. Examples of Ness’s work and performance dates can be found on her website.