Dawson City has a reputation for inspiring art and nurturing artists. From the Dawson City Music Festival to the Berton House, the Yukon School of Visual Arts and the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, the Klondike town has seen its fair share of creative residents.
But sometimes it can be hard for artists to find a place they can sell their goods.
“There’s a number of artists in the community who would like to be more proactive in selling their work, but just don’t know where to do it,” explains Elaine Corden, marketing co-ordinator with KIAC.
Hopefully that will change this week.
Saturday marks the official opening of the Dawson City Artists’ Market. It will run every Saturday during July and August. The market is located in the community events shelter on Front Street. It’s being funded through the Tr’ondek Hwechi’in First Nation, and is a partnership between the city and KIAC.
Artists have been concerned about not having a central place to sell their work for years, said Corden. It can be expensive for them to find a place to set up shop on their own, she said. She’s spent much of this past year talking with artists throughout the community and finding out what their needs are.
“There’s just so much talent in Dawson. It’s got a reputation of being a town that supports the arts and has a lot of eclectic and interesting people, and this is just an avenue for them to turn this into a living for themselves, rather than it be a supplement for something else. We’re trying to make that part of the economy, and not just an after-the-fact type of thing,” she said.
The city is charging the school $25 for each day the market runs.
Because the space is being leased to the school, individual artists don’t need to buy a business licence. Tables and chairs will be kept in a locked box at the shelter.
Artists pay $40 for the whole season, and then an additional $5 for a table. There’s 15 six-foot long tables, but artists are allowed to share space, and can split the costs, said Corden. Her position is only funded for this season, but the goal is for the market to become self-sustaining and run like a co-operative, she said.
The market is fairly flexible – artists don’t have to sell items every week. That’s just part of making it fit with the town’s culture, said Corden. The population “is very transient,” she said.
A lot of artists don’t know how long they’ll be in the area, and some needed convincing that their creations, like jewelry, were even good enough to sell. So far, Corden’s only had a handful of artists commit to the market – even though around 50 completed an online survey about the project, and she guesses there’s even more artists out there.
The ones who have committed are looking forward to it.
“There’s lots of people that just come up for the summer who either have art with them or are making art while they’re here and don’t really have the opportunity to sell it,” said Aubyn O’Grady, the co-owner and co-operator of the Klondike Drawing Company. The company is now in its third summer and plans to sell at the market.
O’Grady, who winters in Toronto but is spending her fifth summer in Dawson, runs the business with Dawson resident, Rian Lougheed-Smith. The two animators design T-shirts and postcards inspired by the local culture. Many of their T-shirts feature images of beards, while another quotes the beginning of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee”: “There are strange things done…”
“People are really into supporting local artists,” said O’Grady. The artistic community made her decide to stay in the town in the first place. She originally came up for a summer job after completing a geography degree, then decided to enroll in SOVA. The community really supports the arts, she said, noting many people who walk around town wearing the T-shirts, which retail for between $25 and $30. O’Grady and Lougheed-Smith prefer to sell them on the festival circuit and keep things small. But it’s been some time since they’ve had the chance to design anything new. O’Grady’s helping organize the music festival, and Lougheed-Smith is working full time and has just purchased property in the area, said O’Grady.
“It’s really easy to get caught up in the social scene in Dawson and forget about your art practice,” she said.
O’Grady isn’t quite sure who the other vendors will be – she suspects Dawson’s “heavy-hitters” will be out at the market, but couldn’t say exactly who else could be selling their goods. But she’s excited to meet with other artists regularly and get inspiration for new designs.
“I think it will do more for Rian and I as artists than it will for our business,” she said. “It will get us thinking about printing again.”
The market will be open every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Right now, only cash payments will be accepted, but gift certificates may be available at a later date, said Corden.
Contact Meagan Gillmore at