The irony is almost as discernible as the works of art on the wall.
Even with personal instruction from world-class musicians, painters and the like, the collection of young artists from throughout Canada will likely learn as much from each other, said Whitehorse’s Kirsty Marie Wells.
“I’ve seen things I’ve never seen before; I’ve seen throat singers from Nunavut, I’ve seen highland jiggers from NWT and countless songwriters and singers and instruments,” said Wells. “I will probably learn more from being around all these people than I will from the mentors.”
As a part of the National Artists Program and in Association with the Canada Summer Games, three Whitehorse artists are currently in PEI, studying under the tutelage of renowned local artists, exhibiting their work and preparing for a collaborative presentation at the closing ceremonies of the Games.
“Some of us will be on stage, some of us will be behind the scenes,” said Wells. “It’s a secret, so I can’t tell you.”
Selected through an application process overseen by Sport Yukon, government Tourism and Culture administrators and National Artists Program managers, the Yukoners are joined by three artists from each province and territory in Canada.
The Yukon’s contribution to the melange of artists is Wells, a visual artist, musician Ben Barrett-Forrest, and singer-songwriter Kayla Ware Dewdney.
“They’ve focused on getting island artists to show their talent or give them guidance,” said Yukon artist manager Sunny Patch. “Or just share their technique—whatever it is they do.
“So they go to these mentor sessions that last about two hours and they have time to talk with the artist and learn from them.”
Unlike the athletes competing at the Summer Games, the three artists are in PEI for the full two-week duration. Aside from participating in workshops, the artists have given exhibitions in the athletes village and community shows in Summerside during week one and at The Guild, a public art gallery, in downtown Charlottetown in week two.
Wells, 19, who usually works in encaustic art (painting with colour-infused bees’ wax), has submitted an acrylics piece that is a combination of three separate works.
“I tried to go with an old style pin-up,” said Wells with the quiet confidence of a blooming artist. “My friend asked me to do a piece for him (to get tattooed) and sort of I based the other two around the first piece – and it worked out pretty good.”
The middle piece in her work is of a cartoonish nurse, not unlike Jessica Rabbit. But on closer inspection it comes to the viewer’s attention that the figure is holding a bloody human heart.
“He said I want a nurse pin-up, so I did a nurse pin-up,” said Wells. “Then he said I want a naughty-nurse pin-up, so I did a naughty-nurse pin-up. Then he said, ‘Is there any way you could make it more metal influenced?’ So I put an anatomically correct heart in it and he was happy.
“The other two I tried to have a malice influence in them as well.”
Fittingly, the three paintings together are called “If you want blood you’ve got it,” the name of the AC/DC she was listening to when she painted them.
Speaking of music, if you were to hear Barrett-Forrest play his five-string viola, it would be no surprise that he’s been playing since he was four years old.
“It’s definitely my life’s passion,” said Barrett-Forrest.
“This opportunity is such an incredible way to meet other artists from across the country and to build on ideas that I have in my head and get inspiration from other artists.”
As a member of a jazz quartet in Whitehorse, Come Eat A Cat, Barrett-Forrest, 17, who also plays mandolin, accordion and the clarinet, is receiving instruction he can immediately incorporate into playing with his band.
“Just today I was in an improvisation jazz workshop where a great jazz trio taught us how to improvise even better,” said Barrett-Forrest. “I’m using my instrument as my medium of expression to let other artists know what I’m about.”
Much like Jim Morrison, the front man for the band The Doors, Dewdney, 18, is a poet and does not play an instrument. But unlike the leather-clad Morrison, she has had years of voice lessons and has performed in musical theatre, including Cabaret in Whitehorse.
“Since I’ve been here I’ve been doing some songwriting workshops and some composition work, which I’ve never done before,” said Dewdney. “I don’t play an instrument, but I can read music and I’ve done voice lessons for six years.
“I write a melody in my head and then I write lyrics, then I get a musician to help me work it out.”
As for hearing these Yukon musicians for yourself, Dewdney was one of 12 artists chosen for last year’s Yukon Women in Music compilation CD, and a copy of Come Eat A Cat’s album can be purchased by calling Barrett-Forrest at 335-4236.
Contact Tom Patrick at