Many hands made this mural

This is probably about as collaborative as an art project can get. After months of work by 115 artists from around the community, a new mural was officially unveiled this week at Yukon College.

This is probably about as collaborative as an art project can get.

After months of work by 115 artists from around the community, a new mural was officially unveiled this week at Yukon College.

The art piece, dubbed I Dreamed I Was Home, now permanently adorns the back wall just inside the Whitehorse Campus’s main door, as well as the nearby staircase.

The painting is large. It’s made up of 65 panels, each about 16×16” and puzzled together in the shape of an abstract wave or mountain peaks.

An additional 13 panels are being sent to the college’s community campuses and learning centres.

As you read it from left to right, the painting travels through the seasons, highlighting northern activities and the many different cultures that now make up the territory.

It is the last project of Yukon Cultures Connect, a two-year series of public events and art workshops at the college, focusing on cultural diversity.

Prior to beginning the painting in September, community groups from around the territory were consulted to gather ideas for what should be in the art.

Throughout the mural the words “dream” and “home” appear in a variety of languages.

Upon closer inspection, a pair of cross-country skiers is seen making their way through the Yukon snow. One is in a kilt. The other is wearing a traditional kimono.

Project coordinator and Yukon College artist-in-residence Nicole Bauberger said she hopes the mural and its many small details is an “ongoing source of surprise” for students and staff that will walk past it for years to come.

“I hope they see things that they recognize and remind them of home and things that surprise them and excite their imagination,” she said.

So how exactly does one coordinate 115 volunteer artists for one project?

The task of corralling the creativity fell to Bauberger.

The long-time Yukon artist has worked on a number of community murals in the past in both the Yukon and Ontario.

“People might think, ‘Art by committee? That would be hard.’ Are you kidding me?” she laughed. “It just means that you have extra brains.”

After ideas were gathered, the work began as many art projects do – by putting pencil to paper.

A group of volunteers drew the first sketches on two 11×16” pieces of white paper. With a basic idea in mind, sample images were collected and collaged on a larger prototype.

A grid was then penciled on to that creation.

Finally the painting began. Volunteer artists, mostly people with little experience, were able to enlarge the prototype by mimicking what they saw in each small grid square onto a larger version of the grid placed on the final mural.

Paint was layered onto the panels over a long period of time, meaning often a number of different artists worked on each different part.

Bauberger said this method of painting – going one small grid square at a time – makes working with such a large group easier and is also much less intimidating for inexperienced artists.

“It’s easier than just sitting them down and saying, ‘paint me a bear,’” she said.

Practical nursing student Pauline Chambers estimates she spent about 100 hours volunteering to work on the piece.

She says she learned a lot from the process.

“So often in life we’re told to be independent and work on your own,” she said. “But here we are listening to Nicole saying, ‘Work together, make it your own but make it everyone’s.”

The mural marks the end of the college’s 50th anniversary celebrations that happened over most of last year.

The title of the work came from a traditional Tlingit song associated with the Story of Kaax’achgook. The song was sung by Angela Sidney when she gave the name Ayamdigut to the college’s Whitehorse campus at its official opening in October 1988.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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