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A different kind of art opening

Ets'edegél' (Spear Game) by Krystle Coughlin Silverfox in the Emerging North exhibit at the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery. The exhibit runs until the end of June. (Mike Thomas photo/Yukon Arts Centre)

By Amy Kenny

Ever wonder what it’s like to have a private showing at a gallery? Beginning this week, you can book one at the Yukon Arts Centre. 

Mary Bradshaw, director of visual arts, says YAC has been working with the COVID-19 office set up by the Yukon government, to develop a safe plan for public engagement.

As part of that plan, small groups of no more than 10, from the same household, can book one-hour timeslots to see current exhibitions, including Emerging North, the show slated to coincide with the Arctic Winter Games. 

“It was only open for a day and a half (before restrictions kicked in),” says Bradshaw. “People haven’t had the chance to see it … the artist’s families haven’t even had a chance to see it.” 

Bradshaw says bookings to see the show, which features the work of various Indigenous artists responding to the concept of the Arctic Winter Games, can be made Tuesdays and Thursdays at the moment. These hours may, however, be tweaked to accommodate the public if they prefer evenings and weekends.

Bradshaw says visits will last an hour. Between bookings, staff will spend 30 minutes wiping down the main gallery, where Emerging North is located, as well as the community gallery. The exhibit there features work from Yukon artist, Joseph Tisiga, who was one of 25 artists from across Canada to win the 2020 Sobey Art Award. 

“We want to celebrate him a bit,” Bradshaw says.

YAC is also looking for ways to celebrate emerging artists during the pandemic. That’s how the idea came about for the RBC Emerging Artist Program, which looks to support emerging artists who have identified an established Canadian mentor they’d like to work with and learn from. The submission deadline for this is ongoing. 

“We know that we have a number of artists out there who, I would hesitate to say they have more time on their hands, but maybe they have different time on their hands,” says Bradshaw. “Maybe this is a time that artists can invest in themselves a bit and that’s really what this is centred around.”

Anyone who identifies as an emerging artist (this can include visual art, performing art, writing, music, beading, regalia-making and more) can apply to work, virtually, with a mentor. Both mentor and mentee are paid an honorarium of $500. 

“For the mentor, it’s a chance to share knowledge and skills and, in all likelihood, it will spark art for them too … it’s kind of a clear path on the mentee side, learning skills and knowledge.”

Bradshaw says the honorarium will hopefully give emerging artists the confidence to ask mentees they admire, knowing their mentors will be paid for the time they spend online with mentees. 

This isn’t the only virtual programming YAC has developed in response to the pandemic. Bradshaw says the centre has also taken its Kids Kreate program, which usually happens live and in-person at YAC, online. 

When the program first went digital back in March, Bradshaw says the zoom classes were maxing out at 100 participants. 

“One of the most exciting things with it is we’ve had a fair number of folks tuning in from the communities,” says Bradshaw. “It’s been a program for 20 years, but has only really served the Whitehorse community until now.”   

During the one-hour classes, kids use materials from around the house (“recycled materials, cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls—they don’t need to make a special trip to get things.”) to craft works of art.

For example, Tisiga led a class where participants made a monster and a slingshot to go monster-hunting. Comic book artist Cole Pauls led a comics workshop. Teresa Vander Meer-Chasse taught participants to make a tissue paper bouquet. 

Though Kids Kreate may take the summer off (“it’s hard to compete with the beautiful weather,” says Bradshaw), it will start up again in the fall, offering a visual arts class on Wednesdays and a performing arts class on Fridays.

Click here to apply for the RBC Emerging Artist Program and here to book a visit to the galleries.

Visit for information on our Kids Kreate workshops.