This year’s Yukon Art Society’s winter show which opened Dec. 4 at the Focus & Edge Galleries at Arts Underground on Main Street, is called <em>Stoke</em>. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

This year’s Yukon Art Society’s winter show which opened Dec. 4 at the Focus & Edge Galleries at Arts Underground on Main Street, is called Stoke. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Stoking the creative fires

Yukon Arts Society opens its annual members’ exhibit at Arts Underground

A warm woodstove fire at home on a cold winter’s day; sitting around a campfire with friends and family; the burning of an effigy in the annual Burning Away the Winter Blues event — fire can be a comfort, a place to gather and has a cleansing quality.

And that’s the focus of Stoke, this year’s Yukon Art Society’s winter show which opened Dec. 4 at the Focus & Edge Galleries at Arts Underground on Main Street.

The annual winter exhibit by the arts society, which currently has approximately 150 members, has been a tradition for at least the last 15 years with artists submitting works around a central, typically winter, theme, Arts Underground curator Katie Newman said in a Dec. 1 interview.

While this year the exhibit will focus on fire, 2019’s show was centered around a theme of blankets and 2018’s theme was about light.

Newman said that while the theme provides guidance for artists and a central idea for the annual exhibit, there’s always a wide variety of artwork submitted for the show.

The theme of blankets, for example, spawned images of blankets of snow along with the creation of blankets and other projects.

A number of people had asked Newman whether the annual exhibit might focus on COVID-19, and though it seems to be an obvious theme in 2020, she said she wanted to do something different.

“I wanted to pick something more hopeful,” she said.

With that in mind, fire was selected as the 2020 theme. Newman highlighted the annual Burning Away the Winter Blues event that celebrates the end of winter with the burning of an effigy each March as the winter season moves into spring, as well as the warmth and comfort a fire can bring particularly through the colder months.

As it’s stated in the call for submissions from the arts society: “As we come closer to the longest nights of the year, we’ll start to spend more time close to our wood stoves and campfires. Just as we’ll spend more time stoking the fires at home, we also have the opportunity to keep stoking the fires of creativity and inspiration as we move into a new year.”

“In light of this, we are inviting Yukon Art Society members to reflect on the theme Stoke for our Winter 2020 Members’ Show. We ask that you bring in pieces highlighting the colour red in order to create a cohesive and bright exhibition.”

Given the events of 2020, Newman said she wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when it came to the number of submissions Arts Underground would get for this year’s exhibit.

While some artists have found themselves creating more work than they typically would in a given year, others haven’t been creating as much this year.

Newman said the response to the submission has been good with 20 artists from Dawson, Haines Junction, Marsh Lake and Whitehorse showcasing their work in a variety of mediums including painting, mixed media, ceramics, textiles and ink drawing all around the central Stoke theme.

Artists showcasing their work in the exhibit includes Gabriele Watts, Judy Tomlin, Monika Käte Steputh, Barbara Pratt, Kathy Piwowar, Niki Parry, Maria Oswald, Andrew R. Mott, Asia Hyde, Duran Henry, Melanie Harris, Louise Hardy, Shelley Hakonson, Edwige Graham, Lea-Ann Dorval, Roma Dobrowolsky, Esther Bordet, Teagan Beemer, Dee Bailey and Karen Andersen.

When they brought in their work, many said they were excited to take on the theme of fire, Newman said, noting it can be fun to create something from a central theme.

“It’s been really positive,” Newman said.

She’s hopeful those who take in the exhibit may feel a sense of warmth in viewing the pieces.

Reflecting on campfires as something that draws people together, Newman said she also hopes that the exhibit gives visitors a sense of gathering even while COVID-19 measures are in place and being met at the gallery.

Due to COVID-19, no opening reception will be held for Stoke, but visitors can take in the exhibit during Arts Undergound’s regular hours throughout the week.

Stoke will be on display until Dec. 24.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at