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Whitehorse Arts event focuses on wildfire

Participants will collaborate on an art piece at the KDCC
Krystle Silverfox is going to be one of the artists involved in a March 28 event at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, that focuses on climate change. (Krystle Silverfox/Courtesy)

With summer on the horizon, everyone is thinking about fire season, but an arts event at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre (KDCC) asks Yukoners to think about it differently.

“I think [fire] is one of those things that it doesn’t really land until until you’ve experienced it,” says Nicole Schafenacker, Climate Resilience Project Coordinator at the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning. Schafenacker organized Generative Resilience: Creative Response to Climate Crisis in the North, an evening of collective art making and conversation about climate, taking place March 28. “But I do think that art and creative practices can kind of give us a window into what those sensations are. What it feels like to have ash falling on your arms, what it feels like for the Internet line to be burned through and just kind of put us in that experience and maybe, in some way, help us help us prepare and help us think ahead of time about elders that we should be checking on, ways that we can maybe provide mutual aid to our communities.”

Schafenacker said the event is the first of its kind, but she hopes it will also be the first of many. The event begins at 5 p.m. and invites people to drop in and share, converse and collaborate on a 6 x 10 foot canvas that Schafenacker and Yukon artist Krystle Silverfox started working on during the evening on March 27.

Inspired by the Ethel Lake fire in 2019, the canvas features a charcoal forest and the superbloom of fireweed that cropped up in subsequent years. It will go on to serve as the backdrop of a Gwaandak Theatre performance, slated for the 2024/25 season, that explores similar climate themes through story and performance.

The March 28 event, which takes place between the firepit at the KDCC and the artist studio at the KDCC, will also offer food, hand games, and a panel discussion featuring Yukon First Nations climate leaders and artists such as Daqualama Jocelyn Joe Strack of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation; Tlingit artist Blake Shaa’koon Lepine; artist and Dechinta instructor Lianne Charlie of the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation; Silverfox of the Selkirk First Nation; and Sean McDougall of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

The panel begins at 6:30 p.m.

Participants and attendees don’t have to register in advance, says Schafenacker. They can just show up.

Participants also don’t need to have any specific artistic skill, she says.

There are loose parameters for the evening, but attendees can expect to hear the poem, KǪ́ DÉK’Ǫ́ IN DENENDEH, by Shazny Waugh from Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation in Fort Smith, NWT, as well as excerpts from interviews with Jeneen Frei Njootli (Vuntut Gwich’in from Old Crow, YT) and Katarina Kuhnert (non-Indigenous from Inuvik, NWT).

“We’re going to listen to a few pieces that really kind of bring us into the embodied experience of that. And then folks are going to be invited to write and draw as they listen to these interviews to spark their own their own ideas about how we can sort of adapt and move through these climate disruptions.”

She says the recorded submissions have made her think a lot about what happens in the aftermath of fire events, how the land is going through its own process during fire season, and how communities can learn from each other and adapt, to help both themselves and their neighbours in coming seasons.

Schafenacker says thinking about this kind of thing in the context of art hopefully can help people stay grounded and connected, even in the midst of really disruptive situations.

“So we can create networks and pathways and mutual aid with each other,” she says. “We can sort of tap into our own wellness to stay responsive when we have to make decisions or navigate a situation with a lot of unknowns.

“And then also sort of the the ability to be able to heal and create a bit of balm, after we go through an event like this.”

Contact Amy Kenny at

Amy Kenny, Local Journalism Initiative

About the Author: Amy Kenny, Local Journalism Initiative

I moved from Hamilton, Ontario, to the Yukon in 2016 and joined the Yukon News as the Local Journalism Initaitive reporter in 2023.
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