Yukon tourism and culture minister Jeanie McLean speaks at an announcement in Whitehorse Oct. 5 where she unveiled the territory’s six new tourism banners. The banners feature artwork by six artists, all of whom are women. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)

Minister unveils six new designs for Yukon tourism banners

The banners, for the second time in a row, feature artwork all made by women, tourism minister noted

Six new tourism banners, featuring artwork all made by women, will soon be greeting travellers on the Yukon’s roadways and visitors’ centres.

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys) unveiled the new banners at an announcement at the visitors’ information centre in Whitehorse on Oct. 5.

They feature art of Emma Barr, Esther Bordet, Amber Church, Maegan Garrett, Violet Gatensby and Sharon Vittrekwa, which a jury selected out of a pool of 20 applicants.

October, McLean noted, is Women’s History Month in Canada, and it’s the second time in a row that the Yukon’s tourism banners are all featuring the work of women.

“Yukon has a long history of women as leaders in the arts community as well … so I really hold my hands up to all the women artists and those who identify as women because it’s not an easy road, for sure,” she said.

“This year has been a difficult one for the arts and culture and tourism sector — the ability for artists like these six that we’re featuring here today to both lead the industry in vision and lean on one another for support is what makes our Yukon arts community so truly unique, so I’m really happy to be here with all of you today to celebrate artists.”

The art, which ranges from beaded pink roses to a slightly-surreal painting of a kayaker riding on the swirling waters of the Yukon River to an illustration of woman holding a massive gold nugget, “(reflects) the richness of Yukon First Nations culture and history, the pioneering spirit of the gold rush, the Yukon’s majestic wilderness and wildlife and the life-changing adventures to be had here in our Yukon territory,” McLean said.

Along with being featured on banners strung up along Robert Service Way, visitor information centres and along the highways near communities, McLean said the Yukon government is also looking into other ways to use the art.

She suggested that they might be printed onto scarves or ties, for example, to be handed out as gifts, but added that the details are still being worked out.

Bordet, who created the illustration of the woman holding the gold nugget, said at the announcement that she was amazed by the diversity of mediums represented in the banners.

Her piece, she explained, is called “The Explorer,” and was partly inspired by her career as a geologist — the mountains in the background of her piece are based on the Pelly Mountains, which she flew over for work in the summer.

While the “very obvious pragmatic reading” of “The Explorer” is that it’s a tribute to all the women who played a role in the gold rush and paved the way for women in a typically male-dominated industry, Bordet said there’s also a secondary message in the piece too.

The gigantic gold nugget, she said, can also be representative of “anything you may be looking for out there,” and that the Yukon “is one of the few places in the world where you can have dreams and find your dreams and achieve them.”

Gatensby, separately, told the News that her painting, “Bear mother and her cubs,” was meant to show a softer, kinder side to bears and their families.

“It’s a mother and two cubs and she’s got one playing on her and she’s … holding one, just so that people coming into the Yukon or around can see … that it doesn’t always have to be, you know, ‘Bears are mean, be careful of bears,’” she said.

“So that’s kind of what I wanted to represent there and just the playful spirit, you know? Just to go out and have fun with your kids or your family or whatnot.”

She added that it felt “really good” to be among the six artists selected to have their work featured on the banners, and part of a dream come true.

“Before I went to school, there was two things I wanted to do, which was to have my artwork in the YVR airport in Vancouver and have one of these banners,” she said.

“So now that it’s actually here and done, I’m like, ‘Wow, cool!’ I can’t wait to drive by and show everybody, ‘Those are mine!’”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com