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Art for artists' sakes

The Yukon has plenty of artists who don't make a lot of money. It can be tough for them to make ends meet. But when a personal tragedy forces them to stop working, it can be impossible.

The Yukon has plenty of artists who don’t make a lot of money.

It can be tough for them to make ends meet. But when a personal tragedy forces them to stop working, it can be impossible.

“Most artists live on the poverty line, and without the social safety net that many of us have,” said MJ Warshawski.

Six months ago, Warshawski, owner of Coast Mountain Sports, and her friend Harreson Tanner, a local artist, began working on a solution to the hard-luck problem.

They’ve formed the Yukon Artist Relief Fund.

“When an artist has a personal tragedy or a serious illness, they can apply for what we’re calling bridge financing,” said Warshawski.

These funds exist in other parts of the country, but until now there hasn’t been anything like it in the Yukon.

It’s something Tanner has wanted to do for years.

When he helped start the co-operative Yukon Artists at Work almost a decade ago, it was one of the corner stone ideas, he said.

But up until now they’ve been limited to helping when they can.

“Over the past eight or nine years we’ve had to have fundraisers for artists that have been injured in a car accident or had a heart attack, but it’s such a kind of frantic knee-jerk reaction,” said Tanner. “We always felt that as a co-op there should be some legacy, some money available so that when something does happen there is no panic.

“We don’t want to make it hard to get,” said Warshawski. “It’s the easy money to float you to get the hard money.”

“If a guy’s had a heart attack and he’s lying on his bed and he’s worried about whether or not his mortgage is getting paid, he can apply and it’s a very simple process,” said Tanner. “It’s going to be a good thing to bridge the gap for the long term alternatives that are available.”

To get it up and running, they are hosting a fundraiser, Canvas Confidential, this Saturday at the Old Fire Hall.

In December, 60 blank canvases were distributed to artists. Of those, 51 were returned as original works of art.

All these pieces have been signed on the back, and the artists have been encouraged to break away from their personal style. “Right now it’s all under wraps, so we can preserve the identity of the artists,” said Warshawski.

At Saturday’s benefit, you’ll find two tiers of supporters.

Attendees who bought the more expensive “Art and Fun” tickets will have their names drawn to select a work of art to take home. The rest won’t have a crack at the art, but they can enjoy live Jazz music from Trio Du Jour and three wine tasting tables.

“At 10 o’clock, we’ll unveil who created what art,” said Warshawski. “You may own a piece that’s worth more than your ticket price, or maybe not, but you had a great evening and you supported a good cause.”

The Yukon arts community has always been very generous in donating works of art to fundraise for various causes, said Tanner.

“In this case, the recipients of the money will be the artists when they most need it,” he said.

“I think we’ve got the seeds of an annual event here,” said Warshawski. “It should be a fun evening and it’s a chance to dress up.”

“I’m wearing a tuxedo,” said Tanner.

Tickets can be purchased at Coast Mountain Sports. Art and Fun tickets are $175 apiece. General admission Just for Fun tickets are $75.

As of press time, there were only 12 Art and Fun tickets still available.

Contact Josh Kerr at