Yukon Artists @ Work (YA@W), the most significant artist co-operative in the Yukon, is made up of fine artists, craftspeople and surface designers.
Based in Whitehorse, YA@W grew from a disparate group of artists working in a skid shack on a parking lot of an abandoned construction warehouse into one of the most extraordinary artists’ cooperatives north of the 60th parallel. Was the geographic isolation of the artists a contributing factor in the development of this collective? These artists who live and work in the North see it through the eyes and understanding of inhabitants, their lives and culture shaped by it.
The North plays a significant role in Canada’s national imagination evoking myths and legends in the minds of many Canadians: the spirit of adventure, the richness of aboriginal cultures, the infinite reaches of nature and the unending clarity of summer days and long, cold nights. The North is an integral part of Canada’s national identity and collective history. Not only a physical region, it is a subject of visual expression from both subjective and objective experiences.
This exhibition explores how making art is a passionate activity that creates opportunities for connecting to participants, various audiences and those who see art and the creative process as a way of understanding unfamiliar communities such as the Yukon. YA@W is committed to building a creative community that brings together a diversity of creative practitioners committed to developing a culture of experimentation and creative exploration. YA@W’s axiom, art is the soul of our community, is what keeps this eclectic and cooperative of artists and craftspeople alive and well in one of Canada’s most unique geographical, social and cultural contexts. This exhibition explores how a group of individual artists living in one of Canada’s last frontiers came together to create a unique and rich community of visual art practices.
The art works tell us as much about the artist as they do about the Yukon through an eclectic and diverse exploration of forms of cultural production that combine materials and techniques into innovative designs and handcrafted construction. The art works create a variety of visual experiences representing a community that is rich and diverse and that explore and celebrate a great northern culture treasure, the Yukon.
This northern land is an omnipresent character and has a profound effect on the creative art process. This exhibition examines how artists and their practices can be seen as a way of understanding their community and the relationships between art and specific kinds of aesthetic experiences that these artists offer the public. Artists are moving up to the Yukon from the Outside, leaving behind friends and family in the South and in moments of self-doubt ask themselves why would anyone live up here?
The diversity of the art work found in this exhibition offers the viewer an opportunity to experience through the eyes of the visual artists definitions of life in the North.
The North remains a mystery to many Canadians, who may have visited it only in imagination. This exhibition can help us unravel this mystery and take us on a journey through unknown territory. The art works articulate a diverse and quirky collection of voices that are engaged in numerous creative processes from the unique geographical, social and cultural context of the Yukon.