Gorellaume with his work at Miles Canyon last year. (Julia Duchesne/Yukon Conservation Society)

Nature, history drive artist inspiration for Created at the Canyon

Put on by the Yukon Conservation Society, the event sees six artists create work at Miles Canyon

For Yukoners with a love of nature and the arts alike, an annual event that brings together the best of both worlds against the stunning backdrop of Whitehorse’s Miles Canyon is just around the corner.

The 2018 edition of Yukon Conservation Society’s (YCS) Created at the Canyon is scheduled to be held July 13 and 14. Now in its seventh year, the event sees YCS select six Yukon artists — past participants have included everyone from poets to painters to sculptors to singer-songwriters — to create art on location at Miles Canyon that’s inspired by their surroundings.

YCS outreach and communications director Julia Duchesne said the society puts as much creative control into the artists’ hands as possible when it comes to picking themes or subjects on which to base their work.

“It’s such a rich location. The artists really choose their own things to focus on, there’s so much to choose from,” she said. “We’ve had artwork focussing on, for instance, a particular animal that lives in the canyon or a particular story related to the canyon’s history or poems about how the water moves or (how) the light glances off the canyon walls. We love seeing what the artists see in this place.”

During the event, members of the public are encouraged to visit Miles Canyon to meet the artists and watch them work. Selected artists will receive a $360 honorarium for their time and will also have their work exhibited at Whitehorse’s Northern Front Studio in August.

This year, for the first time in Created in the Canyon’s history, artists will be chosen via a selection committee that includes two local artists (in the past, YCS staff picked the participants with informal help from members of the local arts community). Also new this year is the introduction of a $500 travel subsidy that YCS is hoping will allow an artist from the communities to participate.

Duchesne said the committee will consider artists across all mediums and at all stages of their artistic careers.

“We are looking for people who have created art that … resonates with the themes of Created at the Canyon before, and we are looking to learn about what the artist plans to do in their time at the canyon,” she said. “But then, apart from that, we don’t require (for) artists to have tons of exhibition experience or that sort of thing…. Basically, all the requirements are is that it has to be art that you can somehow make in the canyon and share with the public during the event and then also share in some form at an exhibit.”

Whitehorse-based painter and illustrator Sheelah Tolton participated in Created and the Canyon 2017 and said that the experience is something she would recommend to any artist.

“It’s a very beautiful place and it’s really great that it’s so convenient to downtown. I was already really familiar with it but it was really nice to go and have the public there to interact with in addition to just working on your own, and it was great to see a lot of people actually out and enjoying Miles Canyon,” Tolton said.

“And also, given the artists that were there, getting maybe a different perspective on how you can look at the beauty of the natural world that is around Whitehorse that I think, sometimes, you start to take for granted when you live here and you’re not just visiting.”

Tolton, who produced several acrylic paintings and one watercolour at the canyon, said her favourite part of the event was the public interaction aspect of working in Miles Canyon. Painting, she explained, is often a solitary activity, so having the chance to chat with passersby and other artists was a different and positive experience.

“I just really enjoyed talking to people, either about their own work or what they appreciated about the area or just their interest in the more technical parts of painting as well,” she said.

Artists interested in participating in Created at the Canyon have until June 18 to apply. Application forms are available on the YCS website at yukonconservation.org

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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