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Hougens’ gift bolsters art community

Main Street businesses come and go, but Arts Underground is forever.Alright, maybe not forever. But it’ll be around for the next 10 years…

Main Street businesses come and go, but Arts Underground is forever.

Alright, maybe not forever. But it’ll be around for the next 10 years — guaranteed.

A $1-million in-kind donation from Rolf and Margaret Hougen ensures Arts Underground, located in The Hougen Centre, will stay open for 10 years.

To celebrate, the Hougens are showcasing a 50-piece collection of Ted Harrison posters at the gallery beginning tonight.

The public event is also a fundraiser for the Ted Harrison Artist Retreat, located on Crag Lake south of Whitehorse.

The Hougens have collected Harrison’s posters for years, and claim a larger collection than Harrison himself.

“Ted is perhaps the most famous artist to come from the Yukon,” said Rolf in an interview at Arts Underground.

“He’s appreciated from one end of this country to the other, and even internationally.”

Harrison spent several decades in the Yukon before moving to Victoria, BC, in 1993.

Inspired by northern culture and colours, Harrison’s painting is vibrant and capricious, and he’s often donated his work to charities.

“He was always generous and supportive of many organizations, producing all kinds of work,” said Rolf, a lifelong Yukon resident who established his first business in 1944.

It’s those posters, some of which were used to promote Harrison’s gallery appearances, the Hougens will be showcasing at Arts Underground.

Harrison will attend the show opening at 5 p.m. tonight.

The Hougens recently visited Harrison at his studio and acquired 10 new posters with plans to find more to frame and preserve.

Harrison’s legacy should be placed alongside those other Northern icons, Jack London and Pierre Berton, said Rolf, noting Harrison has done much to spread knowledge of Yukon life.

“You have icons that you can appreciate for what they’ve done to promote the Yukon, and Ted is at the top,” said Rolf.

Harrison is just one example of many talented Yukon artists.

Here, you can probably find more artists per capita than anywhere in Canada, he added.

The in-kind donation includes the 2005 donation of the 5,000-square-foot space, cash, maintenance and utility costs, and trickle down effect of having a rent-free space.

The Arts Society receives money from renting out the space to other groups and from the sale of local art.

The Hougen Group also moved its ticket office to the gallery.

The donation will help the arts community remain viable, said Rolf.

Established in 2005, the Arts Underground gallery is run by the 38-year-old Yukon Arts Society, which represents about 150 local artists.

Amateur and professional artists from many backgrounds and disciplines showcase their work at the gallery.

Pottery and glass kilns, pottery wheels, easels, a dark room and meeting space can be found at the gallery.

The Hougen Group partnered with the society, Yukon Arts Centre, the MacBride Museum and Friends of the Yukon Archives Society to open the gallery.

The Harrison retrospective opening starts at 5 p.m. Special guests will be in attendance, including Tourism and Culture Minister Elaine Taylor.