Participants look at and make prints during the festival. (Submitted/Dawson Daily News Print and Publishing Festival)

Dawson City festival has all the fun that’s fit to print

Seventh annual print festival kicks off May 30

If you’ve got so much as a wooden spoon, you can make a print. This weekend, Ryan O’Malley and Cassie Normandy O’Malley will show you how.

The Texas-based artists are just two of those participating in the 2018 Dawson Daily News Print and Publishing Festival.

The festival, now in its seventh year, has grown since its inception, says Matthew Sarty, performing arts producer at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, one of the festival’s presenting partners.

In 2012, it began as a programming component of the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival. Largely visual arts-based at the time, Sarty says there was open studio time, along with a few readings and talks about publishing, all of which took place over a single weekend.

Sarty says organizers wanted instead to present something similar to Writers at Woody Point — a music and literary festival held in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park — and so beefed up the literary component of the event. There are now as many writers involved as there are printmakers, and this year, the festival runs five days, from Wednesday, May 29 until Sunday, June 3.

In addition to printmaking workshops and demonstrations, there will be writing workshops, where attendees can learn about everything from public presentation, to crafting memoir.

Yukon-born storyteller Ivan Coyote will guide nervous readers through preparing for public readings. Winnipeg singer-songwriters John K. Samson and Christine Fellows are leading a workshop designed to help artists of all disciplines to generate ideas and new material.

There are three workshops each on Saturday and Sunday, but because they take place indoors, space is limited to 15, so registration is required.

In the evenings, venues including The Pit, the KIAC ballroom, and the newly-reopened Palace Grand will host open mics, print exhibitions, and story-telling evenings with performances from Samson and Fellows, Coyote, Cree-Metis/Icelandic writer Carleigh Baker, Whitehorse-based Laurel Parry, and more.

Sarty says one of the new components this year is a keynote talk on Saturday night from Winnipeg writer David Alexander Robertson.

Robertson, a member of the Norway House Cree Nation, will deliver a talk about the role storytelling has played, and can continue to play, when it comes to reconciliation in Canada, and about how Indigenous history can be taught through literature.

This year will also feature what may be the world’s first sled dog team-powered printing press. Sarty says B-Line Racing Kennels has offered up six retired sled dogs. The pooches will tie into a lawn roller and, organizers hope, drag it over a large-scale print.

“We just wanted to do something a little bit wacky,” says Sarty.

“Mostly just because it’s hilarious.”

Sarty says the process is a smaller, less predictable scale version of a steamroller print — where an artist lays out a huge plate, carved with an image and inked, covers it with printing paper, and drives a steamroller over it.

If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry. Many of the hands-on opportunities for attendees with be more manageable.

Ryan O’Malley and Cassie Normandy O’Malley, who drove up from Corpus Christi, Texas, brought a few sets of tools and a tabletop press.

Both are professional printmakers. O’Malley teaches at Texas A&M University. Normandy O’Malley just completed her masters of fine arts at Tulane University in New Orleans.

The say printmaking is kind of like making giant stamps. It can be complicated (if you want to get steamrollers involved), but it can also be scaled for beginners. It’s a practice that’s immediate, and can be easy, because you don’t even necessarily need a press — you just need wood, says O’Malley.

Again though, there will be plenty of presses for the crowds the workshops tend to draw. Sarty says anywhere from 60 to 75 people usually come out during the week.

In addition to O’Malley and Normandy O’Malley’s press, Yukon artists John Steins, Ken Anderson, Joyce Majiski and Peter Braune will participate, teaching everything from the technical side of preparing plates, to wood carving.

This year the festival has access to a flatbed press and a four-foot tall 1890s-era letterpress, both of which are being brought up just for the event.

As always, the event will also make use of the old presses in the Dawson Daily News building, which Sarty says has seen renewed interest ever since Parks Canada partnered with the festival to open it up for workshops additional partners include Dawson City Community Library and the Writers Trust of Canada.

For more information on the schedule and timing, visit kiac.ca.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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