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Good things come in small commissions

By Amy Kenny

If you’ve ever had the idea for a work of art, but not necessarily the expertise to bring it to life, now’s your chance.

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the Yukon Arts Centre (YAC) is funding 10 micro commissions of up to $500 each. This February, YAC will assemble a jury to look at written or video pitches from Yukoners, detailing works of art they’d like to see made to commemorate someone or something in their community. The jury will then pair the work with a Yukon artist and pay that artist $500 to create the piece, be it a painting, song, sculpture, poem or something else entirely.

“In this time of COVID and uncertainty, any project we can do that doesn’t involve gathering is certainly something we’re interested in,” says Michele Emslie, director of programming at YAC. “And I just think it’s such an interesting avenue for becoming involved in and celebrating the arts community. Sometimes attending an arts event or going into the gallery is a little more passive and this is a way of being more involved.”

Emslie says the jury (members are yet to be determined) won’t be looking for a full-scale plan on how the proposed work should be created and exhibited, so she encourages Yukoners not to assume they lack the arts know-how to participate.

“We’re looking for just the kernel of the idea,” she says. YAC wants pitches from a broad spectrum of people across the territory. One of the things about the project (something that other arts organizations, including the National Ballet of Canada) that appealed to Emslie was the opportunity for someone who might not be in a position to commission work, to do so.

She says applicants are welcome to suggest a specific artist if they have one in mind, but that, ultimately, it will be up to the jury to choose the right artist for each job. She’s also excited for the opportunity it gives emerging artists. Some more established artists working on a larger scale wouldn’t be able to complete a piece for the commission fee, but the $500 mark is a feasible one for emerging artists, depending on their medium. 

When the works are completed, each artist will retain the piece, as well as copyright to it. YAC will host an online gallery of the work and, hopefully, in the coming season, an exhibition.

“It really is a unique way of celebrating a person, place or event in your community,” she says. “It’s a way of honouring something in your life in a very different way. A piece of art can last forever.”

Submissions can be sent to The deadline is February 11.