Yukon artists get a new champion

Mary Bradshaw fell in love with art at a very early age. But she soon realized she wasn’t an artist.

Mary Bradshaw fell in love with art at a very early age.

But she soon realized she wasn’t an artist.

Instead, she decided to make a career out of art appreciation.

Last week, Bradshaw was appointed the Yukon Arts Centre Public Gallery’s first director.

The post marks a change in structure at the gallery, which promises to provide more national and international exposure for Yukon artists.

The arts centre gallery brought her to the territory four years ago to work as an assistant curator on a year-long contract.

She then moved further north to work as the co-ordinator of the ODD gallery in Dawson.

About a year ago, the former curator, Scott Marsden, left the arts centre gallery, which was soon on the lookout for someone who knew the institution and community.

And that person was needed right away.

Bradshaw, who had just finished working on the culture and arts festival during the Canada Games, was the perfect candidate.

The gallery’s board of directors hired Bradshaw as its acting curator for one year to buy time to decide how to proceed.

The board was looking for a different model for the gallery.

“There are a lot of great artists in the territory but there is a problem of outreach,” said Bradshaw.

“A lot of Yukon artists are only getting to a certain point — they’re really talented, but breaking out of the Yukon is a difficult thing to do.”

The board came up with the idea of bringing in guest curators from outside the territory, said Bradshaw.

“A lot of it was just literally so these curators that Yukon artists don’t have access to could come here, meet them and be blown away.”

Galleries sometimes bring in one guest curator in each year, but it’s not terribly normal to “go whole hog” and operate solely with guest curators, said Bradshaw.

A director was still needed to run the gallery and organize the guest curator visits.

Again, Bradshaw was the best candidate for the job.

The gallery doesn’t have any guest curators lined up just yet.

“We’re starting to scheme,” said Bradshaw.

“By the end of the summer, we hope to have that lined up. At this point we have to work it out budget-wise.”

Bradshaw and the board also want to look at holes in gallery programming and try to fill them.

“A lot of it will just be going through and seeing have we had a sculpture show lately and finding a curator to specialize in that,” she said.

“Or do we want to go more abstract and have a show about … the essence of time or something.

“Or we could do a First Nation women artists exhibition and actually have a First Nation curator do it and do a proper job of it — rather than having this white girl imposing, you know.”

Bringing in guest curators will help Yukon artists break out of the territory in other ways.

Bradshaw will now have more time to help them tour their own shows.

“A lot of these artists will spend at least a year creating an exhibition for our gallery and where does it go from there?” she said.

“Would like to see a lot of the local shows created for the arts centre get out to art gallery of Alberta or maybe we could tour it around.”

The gallery currently maintains a summertime exhibition display, showcasing local artists.

The shows that run from September through to May are more of a mixture of local and imported art.

“We always have one Yukon artist in the space and I think that’s really important,” said Bradshaw.

“I think it’s a great chance too.

“A couple years ago we had Emma Barr right beside Janet Cardiff — so we can have our young emerging artists showcased right beside top national and international artists.”