Co-founders of the Yukon Prize for Visual Arts David Trick, left, and Julie Jai speak with media after announcing the new $20,000 annual prize at the Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse on June 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

New $20,000 visual arts prize to be awarded in 2021

Prize funded by Whitehorse couple

The Yukon Arts Centre has revealed a new privately-funded $20,000 prize for artists.

The Yukon Prize for Visual Arts was rolled out on June 25 at the arts centre. Whitehorse couple Julie Jai and David Trick are funding the prize.

Jai and Trick are working in partnership with the Yukon Arts Centre, the Yukon Arts Foundation and a group of volunteers on the Yukon Prize Committee.

Both Jai and Trick are avid lovers of the Yukon. Through getting to know artists, they learned of some of the struggles creative people face here.

“With some of them, we really noticed that one of the things that was holding them back was having to work at another job, like not being able to focus on their art,” Jai said.

Jai said the genesis of the prize probably dates back to 1996 when she first moved to the Yukon to work on a land claim. She fell in love with the land, its peoples and the culture. She moved back to Toronto in 2002 but quickly found the she wanted to come back.

One of the things she enjoys the most about the territory is art and talking with artists. She feels the territory has a quality and diverse art scene but it is largely obscure and overlooked.

The couple wanted to give back to the arts community and decided to offer the opportunity to help an artist focus on his or her craft. With that motivation, their idea grew from there.

They wanted to do more than just help artists focus on their work. Jai hopes this will help draw more attention to Yukon art. Trick explained the goal is to support contact between the Yukon art community and the art community in Canada as a whole and internationally.

“We’re hoping that others in the community might find ways to amplify what we’re doing so that Yukon artists can become as well-known as they deserve to be,” Trick said.

Applications will open in January 2021 and close in March.

“We wanted to get the announcement out early so that artists could start thinking about it and maybe create some new work to be part of their entry,” Jai said.

Trick said the prize is open to various mediums like painting, carving, sculpture, ceramics, prints, electronic media, photography, textiles, glass, regalia, jewelry and drawings.

The applicant must have lived in the Yukon for at least two years prior to the closing date and worked on their art on a part-time or full-time basis.

Applicants will have to provide photos of the previous work that they’ve completed in the last five years. Three jurors will chose six finalists in June 2021 and determine a winner in September 2021.

The winner will get the $20,000, which can be used in anyway they want. The remaining finalists will get a $1,000 award. The winner will be announced at a gala event that month.

All six finalists will have their art exhibited at the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery from September to November 2021.

Trick said the details on how often this prize will be awarded have yet to be worked out, but it could be a yearly thing or it could be offered every two years. He adds that to accomplish the goals of the prize, it will take time as this is not a one-year project.

“We are going to make a commitment over an extended period of time,” Trick said.

Jai said the money will come from money the couple have saved up.

“It’s coming from savings from working hard for years and years and years,” Jai joked.

Contact Gord Fortin at

Visual Arts