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2014 Conrad Boyce Award presented to Scott Wilson

2014 Conrad Boyce Award presented to Scott Wilson

Conrad Boyce is best known for his love of theatre and great dedication to the arts in the Yukon. In recognization as a crucial member of the community, the  Conrad Boyce Award is annually presented to a new recipient, this year it is Scott Wilson. Similar to Boyce, Wilson has been an integral part of the arts community in the Yukon and is best known for his commitment to Jazz Yukon and as a band member in the Whitehorse based group Second Cousins, that preforms a medley of bluegrass, roots, and alt-country music.

Initially not having known much of Boyce's history, Wilson first heard of his participation in the Yukon arts scene as a board member of and director for the Golden Horn Music Society (GHMS). When Wilson first arrived in the Yukon the GHMS was spearheading performances such as Man of La Mancha, Annie, and Sound of Music to name a few. Boyce and Wilson first met while playing in the pit orchestra for Annie, which Boyce directed. Wilson recounts on story from the opening night:

The show was well on its way, when Boyce came out from the curtain and said "Is there a doctor in the house?"  Everyone laughed, but he was serious.... My friend Rachel was directing the pit orchestra and she pointed her baton at me and said, "I think you are needed back stage".  I ran back stage to find Daddy Warbucks (Mark Smith) writhing around in the wings with a dislocated shoulder, a recurring problem, and provoked by a very quick costume change trying to get into a jacket. My dear friend Dorothy Martin (an ER nurse who was in the play) was on the wing when I arrived.  As the band played on and the actors improvised on stage... we looked at each other... didn't really say much and just did our nurse-doctor thing and reduced the dislocated shoulder, strapped him up, put Daddy Warbucks in his next costume change and sent him back on stage... to complete the evening's performance. Dorothy and I resumed our respective spots in the cast!

Boyce first arrived in the Yukon by way of the Alaska Highway in the summer of 1977 from Grande Prairie, Alberta, where he was living at the time. He enjoyed the Frantic Follies to the point that he decided to audition, was accepted, and returned to the Yukon to work for them in the summer of 1978. Boyce began to explore his love theatre at an early age while in high school in Edmonton, Alberta. Apart from the Follies, his first theatre experience in Whitehorse was that winter of 1980/81, when he directed some of the first productions held at the Guild Hall and Man of La Mancha at FH Collins. La Mancha is one of Boyce’s most memorable productions along with and Godspell, also at FH Collins, Annie and The Wizard of Oz held at the Yukon Arts Centre, and a Bevy at the Guild Hall. Boyce recounts what he suggest may have perhaps been his favourite production "Romeo and Juliet for the Whitehorse Drama Club, in 1989 at the old Indian Centre in Riverdale (no longer there). I had two young teenage Juliets who were amazing. One of them, Kelly Hayes Milner, still lives in Whitehorse."

Artwork Wednesday: The Birthplace of McGee and McGrew

Artwork Wednesday: The Birthplace of McGee and McGrew

With the Jim Robb’s Yukon exhibition coming to a close on August 23rd, this week’s Artwork Wednesday will feature his piece entitled The Birthplace of McGee and McGrew currently on display in the gallery.

A popular Northern poem as told by the bard of the Yukon, Robert W. Service, here Jim creates a mystifying composition illustrating the house where the iconic poems The Shooting of Dan McGew and The Cremation of Sam McGee were conceived.  Before his literary career, Service was an employee of the Imperial Bank of Canada and in 1904 he was transferred to the Whitehorse branch. Legend has it, that during a walk one Saturday night, Service overheard the lively sounds of the town’s nightlife drifting from a saloon. Inspired by the cacophony coming from the bars crowd, the verse “a bunch of the boys were whooping it up” was brought to mind. Instantly inspired, he immediately head to the bank to write down the line. In Jim’s piece, the artist depicts the silhouette of Service sitting in the bank window burning the midnight oil completing The Shooting of Dan McGrew.

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou.

It was only a short while later that Service heard a story from a Dawson miner about fellow who cremated his companion after a long cold journey. Once again inspired by the fantasy of the North, Service was taken by the tale and embarked on a walk through the forest where he composed The Cremation of Sam McGee. These poems along with a small selection of others all inspired by the Yukon were published in Service’s book of poems titled Songs of a Sourdough in 1907.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Sam McGee's cabin

This photo shows the cabin of Sam McGee where it was orginally located on Elliot Street between Third and Fourth Aveune in Whitehorse. Today, the cabin is maintained and held on the MacBride Museum site. While Service describes Sam McGee as a prospector from Tennessee, this is merely a testement to the elaborate imagination of the poet. The real Sam McGee was in fact a buisness man, who operated lodgings at Canyon Creek, orginally from Ontario and arrived in the Yukon in 1898. Service ultized the rhyming properties of McGee's name, and excersiced his poetic license in re-creating the Dawson miner's story. 

Service's cabin in Dawson City

Robert W. Service

Read The Shooting of Dan McGrew here, and The Cremation of Sam McGee here. Also, to learn more about Robert W. Service's career and life in the Yukon visit here

Artwork Wednesday: Laurie Papou

Artwork Wednesday: Laurie Papou

This week's Artwork Wednesday features Laurie Papou's She wished she had been named hope as a reminder, a part of the Yukon Arts Centre Permanent Collection and currently on display in the Locate exhibition. This work is part of Papou’s Vanity Suite series made up of four life-size figure oil paintings which employ religious and art historical imagery of the Three Graces set amidst the ruins of a west-coast clear-cut.

In these works, Papou choses to the Graces defined through Christianity as, Faith, Hope and Charity. In contrast, according to Greek myth, the Three Graces are the three goddesses of joy, charm and beauty, theological virtues that are divine gifts from God. The graces were rarely treated as individuals, but always together as one entity believed to endow artists and poets with the ability to create beautiful works of art.

The three graces can be seen here (left, foreground) illustrated in Botecelli's "Primavera"

In Vanity Suite, the one male and three female figures are set amidst the ruins of a west-coast clear-cut. The setting they inhabit is one of torment and is meant to draw parallel the reality post fall reality of Eden. Papou creates a landscape of chaos, destruction and confusion while speaking to the persistence of human behaviors within the shifting nature of sexual roles in our society. Here, ‘Hope’ is no longer standing amongst the bounty of nature; rather, she is engaged in the drama of a strip tease. Through her defiant gaze and disrobed blouse, passive voyeurism is obscured and we are taken into her hostile environment. Papou's technique in utilizing the exposed grain within the female figure's flesh furthers the voice of the artist's statement. The juxtaposition between embracing the wood's natural beauty and depicting a decimated forest clearly mirrors the female figure revealing herself while engaging the viewer with a paralyzing gaze. The aggression of which is heightened through her blouse which, on first glance, seemingly takes the form of a rifle by her side.

Clockwise from left: He stood on a plateau and challenged us all, She wished she had been named hope as a reminder, Because faith was not lost in the chaos all around her, she was, and She saw her fallen clothes as a charity, a homage to the missing trees

Artwork Wednesday: S.S. Klondike

Artwork Wednesday: S.S. Klondike

This week's Artwork Wednesday features Jim Robb's S.S. Klondike, currently on display with the Jim Robb's Yukon exhibition.  As a guardian of Yukon culture and history, it may come as no surprise that Jim depicts the S.S. Klondike amongst his many historic sites. Done in his iconic style, Jim chooses to depict the S.S. Klondike steaming down the Yukon River. Steam powered sternwheelers were common in river and lake systems in Canada, and were heavily relied upon in the Yukon. The S.S. Klondike is designated as a National Historic Site of Canada to commemorate the role these sternwheelers played in the history of the Yukon.

The S.S. Klondike was built in Whitehorse, in 1929 by the British Yukon Navigation Company, a subsidiary of the White Pass & Yukon Route railway. Servicing communities along the Yukon River, the Klondike was designed to accommodate the Mayo silver mining district shipping upriver to Whitehorse where ore would be transferred to the White Pass & Yukon Route railway to Skagway, Alaska. With a cargo capacity 50 percent greater than other boats on the river at the time, she was the first sternwheeler on the Yukon River large enough to handle a cargo in excess of 272 tonnes (300 tons).  In 1936 when the vessel sank on a section of the Yukon River known as the Thirty Mile, the British Yukon Navigation Company immediately built the S.S. Klondike II, a virtual carbon copy of her predecessor, which continued to work the Whitehorse - Dawson City circuit.

Image source Parks Canada, map showing the route the S.S. Klondike regularly traveled down the Yukon River to Dawson City.

With the decline in silver prices and development of the Alaska Highway, the S.S. Klondike II completed her last Whitehorse and Mayo trip in 1950 but continued on the Whitehorse – Dawson run until 1952 until the Mayo Road was extended to Dawson. The British Yukon Navigation Company made an attempt to continue to run the S.S. Klondike as a cruise ship and though the trips were popular, the high costs of operation were not sustainable. In August 1955 the S.S. Klondike II, the last sternwheeler working on the Yukon River, came to rest in Whitehorse and was donated to the government of Canada by the White Pass & Yukon Route railway. In 1966 she was moved from the Whitehorse Shipyards to her present location where, restored to her original appearance, she now sits in permanent retirement overlooking the Yukon River. She was formally designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1967.

The S.S. Klondike is a listed site for the Jim Robb's Yukon Hunt! Check out some of our participants posing with the boat below, and find out how you can win a signed print by the artist himself, here.

Historical dates and information cited from Parks Canada: National Historic Site of Canada, learn more about the S.S. Klondike here.

Artwork Wednesday: Michael Belmore

Artwork Wednesday: Michael Belmore

This Wednesday we will feature the work of Michael Belmore and his piece Tendency currently on display in the Locate exhibition. Belmore, of Anishnabe (Ojibway) heritage, was born in 1971 north of Thunder Bay, Ontario and is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. He holds an associated diploma in sculpture/installation from the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Ontario, and currently lives in the Haliburton Highlands in Ontario. Belmore is known for his sculptural work in a variety of media including plastics, metal, wood, and stone all of which are important to understanding his interest in nature as a commodity.

Tendency was created as a part of the Three Rivers: Wild Waters, Sacred Places exhibition and project which began in 2003. The project was organized by the Yukon Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), the Yukon Arts Centre, the Yukon Conservation Society and the Wilderness and Tourism Association of the Yukon.  Eleven nationally prominent artists, writers, journalists, and photographers were invited to join twenty-six people from the Yukon and Northwest Territories in three separate but simultaneous journeys along the Snake, the Wind, and the Bonnet Plume rivers. In return, these guests were asked to create works that responded to the Northern landscape which still sustains an aboriginal way of life. The aim of which was to heighten public awareness through an alternative vision that would help safeguard this vital boreal wilderness area.

Belmore's Tendency was a part of this national touring exhibition. Associated with the theme of mining and exploration through the use of copper, the artist explores a prominent Northern narrative. Here, a sheet of copper has been shaped by the artist to create the impression of landforms found along part of the Wind River.  The title, Tendency, suggests a subtle shift in direction, perhaps in the public's attitude towards resource use. Belmore's piece asks us if these precious materials, such as copper, are worth destroying and reshaping our natural landscape for the sake of a Southern demand. The artist’s work emulates the image of a topographic map, further emphasizing the way we look at nature: an expedition in search of resources. As Belmore notes, "The work is a reflection on the processing of nature; beneath the surface of the landscape lies a plenitude of materials ripe for commercial consumption." Free-standing on a steel base, this piece beckons the viewer to exerience it in close proximity to truly appreicate Belmore's masterful technique in metalwork. 


Copper and steel

36" wide x 48" high x 24" high