From garbage warehouse to arts oasis

When Nerissa Rosati and her then-husband toured the former McInroy Disposal warehouse at 3 Glacier Drive in 1992, they sought only a space to raise a budding electrical business and a young family.

When Nerissa Rosati and her then-husband toured the former McInroy Disposal warehouse at 3 Glacier Drive in 1992, they sought only a space to raise a budding electrical business and a young family.

At the time, the property was as unassuming, long-vacant depot filled with mouldy cardboard boxes.

It was only when Rosati stood on an old car-crushing machine in the backyard, that she saw the sweeping natural scenery hidden behind.

Seventeen years later, Rosati’s monstrous corrugated warehouse has become an unexpected oasis for Whitehorse visual artists of all stripes. Its once ugly steel walls now house a hive of sculpture, painting and mixed media.

One could say that 3 Glacier Drive has finally earned a place among the splendour that surrounds it.

On Friday, the Copper Moon Gallery will officially open as the latest addition to the Rosati Arts and Business Centre, joining the Yukon Artists at Work and the Yukon Women in Trades and Technology.

A joint venture by Rosati and sculptor Harreson Tanner, the new gallery enters a town rife with smaller arts venues, but lacking in a true hub with wall space for “large original art.”

“There’s so many artists in the territory, there was a need for a really good, first-class gallery and this is it,” said Tanner.

The co-operative gallery Yukon Artists at Work, requires artists to serve five onsite shifts.

An obvious limitation for artists within the communities, the co-operative was often forced to turn down some of the territory’s finest work.

“There’s a real beauty to a co-op, but it has limitations,” said Tanner.

The new venue has unleashed a floodgate of works, releasing many a Yukon sculpture or painting from obscurity.

When Tanner and Rosati opened their walls and display columns for business, they were astounded by the volume of work produced.

“You talk to half of these guys and they say, ‘We’ve got all kinds of art sitting around in our basement—we’ve got no place to sell it,’” said Rosati.

Near the entrance are three stunning paintings by Old Crow artist Megan Garrett. Before Copper Moon, Garrett’s work had never been able to travel below the Arctic Circle, said Rosati.

“I’ll cry when this one gets sold,” said Rosati, pointing to Garrett’s colourful depiction of the Old Crow sky.

Some of the territory’s biggest art names also find their place on the Copper Moon walls, but the gallery offers them a chance to branch out from their traditional styles.

“A lot of the artists are trying to do things that are a little more artistic, instead of just things that will sell,” said Rosati.

“We’re not working on the ‘big sell,’” said Rosati.

“We have to pay our bills just like everyone else, but since I’m the landlord and the staff I can eat peanut-butter-and-jam sandwiches for a little white,” she said.

Tanner tried to bring in a wide range of all things northern, with pieces from the Yukon, Northwest Territories and even Northern Quebec. Stylistic range is also emphasized. Near the back, a series of psychedelic paintings by Lama Lodro stand out against the mainly flora and fauna scenes surrounding it.

A series of shadow boxes depicting cloth personages in dark, dream-like scenes is positioned near the door, a submission by a student at Porter Creek Secondary.

Rosati’s own handmade wooden boxes sit against the back wall. As a budding artisan, she saw firsthand the territory’s lack of visual arts venues.

“I thought, ‘Where will I sell it?’” she said.

Handmade knives by George Roberts and leather sheaths by Moe Goguen line the front desk.

“Just as we want to get artists out of the woodwork, we want to get art appreciators out of the woodwork,” said Rosati.

When her marriage broke up, Rosati suddenly found herself with a massive warehouse to fill.

Defying all sane conventions of landlordship, Rosati sought combed the artistic community for tenants, subdividing the property into art studios.

Installing new walls, floors and ceilings—the former industrial storehouse became a warren of artistic studio spaces. With studio space in tight supply, the building was quickly swarmed by artists whose artistic endeavours and small living spaces often did not jive.

“They didn’t even have a house, half of them,” said Rosati.

Bird breeders, bands, potters, and papermakers have all passed through the property. Accommodating the property’s artistic myriad has been labour-intensive. Rosati often puts in extra hours to meet the space-specific quirks of her tenants, be they soundproofed walls for a recording studio or a garage door for a car stereo installer.

“Whether or not it was cost-effective over the long run, the average person would say, ‘no,’” said Rosati.

“But it paid the bills … and it was more fun,” she said.

The grand opening for the Copper Moon gallery is from 5 to 9 p.m. Opening ceremonies commence at 6 p.m.

Contact Tristin Hopper at