Children work on glass creations at Lumel Studios during the 2018 Culture Days celebrations. (Submitted/Yukon Arts Centre)

Whitehorse’s Culture Days continue to expand

There are more than 24 events scheduled around the city this year

Tea and bannock with local artists, creating your own fandom canvas, doing a little cave art, family dance, glass blowing and the ever-popular mystery tour — yep, Culture Days is back in Whitehorse and throughout communities across the country.

The self-described “national celebration of arts and culture” is held the last weekend of each September and sees local arts and culture groups open their doors to the public for the festivities.

“Culture Days programs invite the public to get hands-on and behind-the-scenes to highlight the importance of arts and culture in our communities,” officials highlight on the Culture Days website.

In Whitehorse, the number of options has grown from about half a dozen when the Yukon Arts Centre began hosting local Culture Days celebrations in 2010. This year there’s more than two dozen events in Whitehorse listed on event website from Sept. 27 to 29.

The Yukon Arts Centre takes the lead on Culture Days events, though arts centre programming director Michele Emslie pointed out in a Sept. 23 interview that “many hands make light work.”

“Our partner organizations do a lot of the heavy lifting,” she said.

The arts centre hosts the Culture Days hub at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre (KDCC) along with events like the mystery tour, which takes participants on guided tours to three different surprise locations in the city. Previous mystery tours have given participants a behind-the-scenes look at the Old Log Skyscraper, Whitehorse dam, and the Yukon legislature, for example.

“The mystery tour’s always a hit,” Emslie said.

She expects this year’s tour will also prove quite popular, though in the interest of keeping the mystery alive Emslie would not give away any details on what the event will entail this year.

A parade that had been scheduled to take place Sept. 28 along Front Street from the Visitor’s Information Centre to the cultural hub was cancelled last-minute after a number of organizations previously involved in the parade weren’t able to commit to this year’s, Yukon Arts Centre spokesperson Mike Thomas said the afternoon of Sept. 27.

He noted all other Culture Days events are going ahead as planned.

The hub at the KDCC will have a number of its own activites and be the place where residents can grab a brochure listing the various events around town.

“It’s a good place to come and plan your day,” Emslie said.

A highlight at the cultural hub for many youngsters may be the family dance at the hub from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 28.

Over the course of the weekend, Emslie said it’s anticipated between 500 and 800 people will take part in some of the Whitehorse festivities.

For Emslie one of the biggest highlights of Culture Days is seeing local residents discover or, perhaps, rediscover the many cultural locales the city has to offer.

The national movement was inspired by the Journées de la culture, a similar event in Quebec, which was in its 14th year when Culture Days started. It continues to be held on the same weekend.

As Emslie said, being part of that first Culture Days was a matter of territorial pride. The Culture Days movement took hold in other regions and knowing just how much the territory has to offer, officials with the arts centre saw an opportunity to share that with the rest of the country as part of the national festivities.

“We’ve certainly gotten bigger.”

As both the crowds and number of activities and events have increased, the hub has outgrown its original space at the Old Fire Hall on Front Street.

The larger KDCC now proves to be a needed-space for the event, providing kids activities, the dance and as space for things like the Our Voices — Orange Shirt Day popup where visitors can learn about the Orange Shirt Day initiative honouring Indigenous students who were sent away to the residential school system. Orange Shirt Day is Sept. 30.

Also at the KDCC for Culture Days is The Ways of the Matriarch as one of the events. There, artists Shirley Adamson and Darcy Tara will take visitors on a walk through the garden, Tàgá Rū Kúnà Nà T’san Nänkë (Medicines from the land by the river). Participants will also have a chance to make a corsage from local plants, and enjoy some bush tea and bannock topped with homemade jellies.

The cultural centre is also home to the Shakaat Artist Residency program with Open Studio time happening throughout Sept. 28.

A long list detailing all the events and activities happening around town is available on the Culture Days website.

A total of 1,955 events are listed for Culture Days throughout the eight participating provinces and this territory.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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