Letter to the Editor

Games give Yukoners short shrift Open letter to Premier Dennis Fentie, On behalf of the Get In The Games Committee, We write to express our concern…

Games give Yukoners short shrift

Open letter to Premier Dennis Fentie,

On behalf of the Get In The Games Committee, We write to express our concern that the Yukon-made small business community is effectively being excluded from economic opportunities associated with the 2007 Canada Winter Games.

The committee represents more than 150 Yukon small business entrepreneurs and is comprised of the Fireweed Community Market Society, Growers of Organic Foods Yukon and the Yukon Crafts Society.

The 2007 Canada Winter Games are forecast to be the largest event ever hosted by the Yukon and will encompass much more than sporting events.

The Games will include a strong cultural component and will be of tremendous benefit to the Yukon economy.

You have stated: “The 2007 Games are expected to generate economic benefits in excess of $70 million through the sale of goods and services.”

The Games will effectively bring the Canadian market to the Yukon retailer and provide an unprecedented opportunity to showcase the diversity of Yukon-made products and skills.

From handmade jewelery, fine art and beautiful crafts to quality prepared food, agricultural and cosmetic products made from locally grown or harvested plants and animals, the Yukon has a thriving small-business community.

We emphasize local knowledge, Yukon materials and made-by-hand skills. We demonstrate a culture of creativity and independence.

Our growing community of businesses must be included in any initiatives to promote the Yukon at the 2007 Canada Winter Games.

However, to date the government’s attempt to promote its Yukon-made products and skills involves a weeklong Cultural Festival showcasing a limited number of handpicked Yukon artists.

An anticipated Economic Development department marketing initiative to promote a small number of Yukon-made products at select retail outlets was never launched.

The Canada Winter Games Host Society put out a call to wholesalers for “clothing and miscellaneous items, including keychains,” potentially limiting the scope of what would be sold in its store, with no emphasis on Yukon-made.

Additionally, and more disturbingly, Yukon-made small businesses are actively being shut out of retail opportunities in downtown Whitehorse as a direct result of the Canada Winter Games.

Whitehorse hotels have signed agreements with the Canada Winter Games Host Society that they will not rent out any banquet rooms or meeting facilities during the Games to any private bookings.

Additionally, most expect the Games will consume all available outdoor tent rental capacity.

As a result, more than 150 Yukon entrepreneurs operating from their homes, farms or from outside Whitehorse will have nowhere to sell their products.

We have the entire country coming to visit us for two weeks in 2007. Drawn by millions of dollars spent on marketing by the Yukon government, Games visitors may take home some of our “magic and our mystery,” but very few of our unique Yukon-made products unless something changes immediately.

The Get In The Games Committee is committed to finding an opportunity to showcase, with pride, our unique Yukon-made products at the 2007 Canada Winter Games.

To that end, we request the opportunity to meet with you to determine how the economic benefits you have so enthusiastically promised can be better shared.

Surely, “Together We Will Do Better.”


Simone Rudge, Joanne Jackson

Johnson, Adriana Venasse

Get In The Games Committee.


 Art wars joined

Having had the opportunity to spend May and June in the beautiful Yukon territory, I witnessed the recent art “controversy.”

According to letters and articles appearing in the local papers, Art Webster and two other commercial gallery owners have targeted the Yukon Artists at Work and their current show at the Yukon Art Centre as a perceived threat to business interests of the downtown commercial galleries.

I confess to being dumbfounded by this preposterous claim and wonder if these commercial gallery owners in question have any understanding at all of the mandate of public art galleries and of what it means to be part of an artists’ co-operative.

It is inconceivable that a public art gallery could provide any kind of threat to the commercial art business. If anything, the presence of work by local artists shown at the arts centre would only function to enhance people’s interest in exploring a variety of other venues that showcase local art.

I also question whether Art Webster has viewed the current show at arts centre.If he had, it would become immediately obvious that there are no prices on any labels, no red dots, and no price list hanging on the wall.

How can a venue that only wishes to exhibit the work of local artists possibly threaten the commercial art business anywhere?

Further, Yukon Artists at Work is an artists’ co-operative. That means any work that is sold from the McCrae gallery is money returned, mostly, to the artist, with a small percentage going back to support and maintain the premises.

No single owner, no individual proprietor collecting large percentages (50 to 60 per cent of the selling price of work of art is the usual take by a commercial gallery owner), and certainly no one business person pocketing profits from the labours of artists.

It is a co-operative, an entirely different philosophical basis than a business.

With the number of articles that have surfaced in the papers, I was compelled to explore all the galleries and businesses in question.

And indeed, the displays and the products sold in the commercial galleries are a distant cry from the quality and displays of work housed in the Yukon Artists at Work (and the Yukon Arts Centre). When viewing works at the co-operative, it is clear that the artists have the visual presentation of their works as the foremost concern.

All the work is original and is hung with care and focus.

The commercial galleries have predominantly reproductions, limited editions and an assortment of souvenir type items (local and imported); and the work is displayed seemingly without thought or appreciation for the art itself.

Floor to ceiling, the walls are jammed with a mish-mash of framed prints and objects (with the occasional original work tossed in).

As a viewer entering such a gallery, I can’t imagine how anyone can discern the distinctive qualities of any single piece.

While these commercial galleries may be trying to emulate the Salon Style of hanging of a century ago, it doesn’t do any justice to the type of work being exhibited in these environments.

Frankly, for artists involved in the Yukon Artists at Work, I would say their work is being presented in a far superior way in their McCrae gallery than any downtown commercial space.

They may not get the same quantity of foot traffic dropping in, but their work is exhibited in such a way that depicts its value and labour.

I’m sure the tourists who venture to both places clearly see the difference in the calibre of work.

In summary, for both artists and viewers (and buyers), there is (in spite of Art Webster’s unfounded concern) no competition.

The Yukon Artists @ Work and the Yukon Arts Centre win hands down for providing a good art-viewing experience with the merit of the art work as the primary concern, not the business of turning over a product.


Kay Burns

Via e-mail