Yukon arts funding highest in Canada

If you’re an artist looking to fund your new album or sculpture, there’s no better place to be than the Yukon. The Yukon receives $113.

If you’re an artist looking to fund your new album or sculpture, there’s no better place to be than the Yukon.

The Yukon receives $113.33 per person in arts funding, according to a recent Canadian report.

That’s $100 more than the Northwest Territories — the second-best funded province or territory in Canada.

The numbers prove the Yukon really is an arts mecca, said Arts Underground funding administrator Marlene Collins.

“It’s quite a spread, isn’t it?” she said.

An enthusiastic public helps keep arts funding at high levels, said Collins.

“People see so much art around the territory, they really start to value it,” she said. “It’s a small community and art is seen everywhere.”

The report from the Canadian Public Arts Funders measured funding delivered by arts councils or government departments during a 2006-2007 period.

Over the years, the Yukon has attracted free thinkers and artistic-minded people, said Collins.

More than 735 people earn their living in the cultural sector, making up 4.8 per cent of the Yukon labour force, according to a 2004 government report. The national average is 3.8 per cent.

Professional development has also made the Yukon a destination for artists. Collins points to portfolio workshops as a way artists are building careers.

“A lot of people are trying to make a living from their art and there’s a lot of support for them to do that,” she said.

“We’re creating employment for artists and, in turn, they do work in the community.”

Because of the strong presence of artists in the territory — putting on workshops and visiting schools — appreciation for art is higher than ever, said Collins.

“When people see how much work goes into making a cup made out of clay — how much skill is needed — it hits close to home,” she said.

The Yukon economy relies heavily on tourism and cultural industries, making arts funding a necessity to allow artists time to work, said Laurel Parry, manager of the arts sector of the Yukon cultural services branch.

 “Artists are looking to be viable and they’re wanting to live here and have found creative ways to do so,” she said.

“Scratch the surface of a typical Yukon cultural worker and you’ll see a wide array of activities they do to earn a living.”

Some artists sell their art outside the territory, and they can earn money teaching or administering arts projects, said Perry.

While the Yukon does have more arts funding per capita, the numbers in the Canadian Public Arts Funders report are a little skewed, said Parry.

“One of the reasons why the number is so high is the low population,” she said. “So a large arts facility like the Yukon Arts Centre would be just as expensive to run in a city of 200,000 people.

“Despite that, the Yukon has a strong suite of funding programs that started in the 1980s and grew from there.

“There is a real tradition of funding artists and arts programs.”

The tourism and culture department provides more than $2.7 million in grants and contribution funding through programs like the Advanced Artist Award, Artists in the Schools and the Dawson City Arts Society.

“The arts play an important role in the daily life of Yukoners,” said Parry. “It’s not just to benefit the artists but the communities, too, feel the effect.”

The director of the Canada Council for the Arts made a recent stop in Whitehorse during a national tour, and was impressed at the infrastructure and funding for the Yukon artists.

“He was struck by how even though we’re a north-of-60 city the facilities and array of arts services looked like a southern city,” said Perry.

The small, close-knit arts community makes it easy for artists to support each other and collaborate.

“You’ll have a choreographer working with a poet on a project just because they have an artistic affinity,” said Perry.

“The arts in Canada is very people oriented. When people come up here to collaborate, many of them stay.”

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