Yukon artists co op prepares to move downtown

Yukon Artists at Work is on the move. It doesn't take much to set up an easel, canvas or a pottery wheel. But the co-operative of 30 Yukon artists has learned that where you sell your wares is an important decision.

Yukon Artists at Work is on the move.

It doesn’t take much to set up an easel, canvas or a pottery wheel. But the co-operative of 30 Yukon artists has learned that where you sell your wares is an important decision.

After a successful online fundraising campaign Yukon Artists at Work is moving from its Industrial Road location to a new spot in downtown Whitehorse.

Harreson Tanner, one of the co-op’s original members, said it’s time for a more central spot.

The current Industrial Road location is slated to close on Boxing Day. The new locale, in the old Pot of Gold building on the corner of Wood Street and Fourth Avenue, should open sometime in the new year, hopefully by February.

This isn’t the first time the co-op has changed locations.

When the co-op started in 2003, it comprised of 12 artists selling their work from a double-wide trailer on a property in McCrae.

Within six weeks they moved from the trailer into the main building on the property.

“It was right on a cliff edge, facing down the Yukon River and Grey Mountain and all the other four or five different beautiful mountain ranges you could see from the deck,” Tanner said.

On top of that it had a 14-metre deck across the front. The co-op held art classes and other events outside.

“It was a real destination and it was a funky building and people came and just hung out for hours at a time,” he said.

In the summer of 2010 the landlord wanted to use the building for other things. The co-op had to find a new home.

The Industrial Road location is not exactly the first place Yukoners and tourists would look when hunting for art.

“Our patrons have told us it’s hard to get to, ‘I drive by it all the time’ even though there are five signs on the building,” Tanner said. “But they see the plumbing and the gymnasium signs and all the other stuff.”

He estimates sales dropped by about one-third in the four years they were there.

“It’s a good, functional, industrial building. Our landlady was awesome and she did everything she could to give it some ‘je ne sais quoi,’ but at the end of the day people who were used to going to our previous site were saying it’s just not the same,” he said.

Artists are now preparing for the move. Members used to paintbrushes and chisels are preparing to help hang new drywall and lights.

As part of their new lease agreement, the co-op agreed to have a new furnace put in.

“The furnace that’s there I think came on the ark,” Tanner joked.

But those kinds of changes do not come cheap.

Before they considered looking for a bank loan, the co-op first decided to give online fundraising a try.

Using Indiegogo, a website that allows people to donate online in exchange for a range of perks, members Leslie Leong and Linda Leon started a campaign.

Donors get half of their money back in the form of a gift certificate they can use after the first year at the new location.

Larger donations mean some people will have gallery rooms named in their honour.

The campaign was put together in less than a week, said Leong. It was a difficult balancing act. On Indiegogo, groups set their own fundraising goals. But if those goals are not met, the website takes a portion of the money that was raised, she said.

In the end it appears the co-op had nothing to worry about. The $11,000 goal was met within days.

With its major goal accomplished, the co-op has decided to see if they can hit $20,000.

As of Thursday afternoon, the total was sitting at about $15,000.

“It’s been incredibly motivating. It just made all the members so excited,” Leong said.

“It’s affirming for everybody, going, ‘Wow, they really do love us.’ I don’t think anyone really had that sense before.”

Plans are in the works for a sculpture garden in the new location’s yard, Tanner said. The co-op also plans to hold public events.

“We’ve worked very hard over the last dozen years making this happen and the history of most of the co-operatives across Canada is very checkered and very short usually,” he said.

“So we feel very proud of the fact that we’re still in existence and still creating a buzz in the community.”

The fundraising campaign can be found at: www.indiegogo.com/projects/yukon-artists-at-work-moves-downtown

Contact Ashley Joannou at