For 22 years and going strong, LePage Park has become a hub for arts and culture during the summer months. The new season of Arts in the Park launches on May 22 with a free barbecue. It will be a family affair, as visual artist Jona Barr, who will doing silk screening all week, will be joined on the first lunch hour by Kevin Barr partnering with Hank Karr.
Producer and programmer for Arts in the Park, Geneviève Doyon, says it is important to have a cultural space downtown, developed downtown, and that it is respected.
“Some aspects of the park are legacies from previous years that have been respected,” Doyon said. “The streamers in the trees are from Helen O’Connor, and the painting on the wall by Ali Khoda has lasted over two years.”
Doyon explains that the concept for Arts in the Park started with the idea of music and visual arts being combined. Combining the two artistic fields was the brainchild of Steve Slade and the late Dereen Hildebrand, in 1996. It is a unique opportunity to see visual artists working on a project, contrasted against the musicians who are often seen performing around the Yukon.
“I like the aspect of getting the artist out of the studio,” Doyon said. “It’s not workshops, but seeing them work on the project while being [available] to interact. Unlike the music, seeing a visual artist work … and that work evolve Monday to Friday, I find that very exciting.”
The format for Arts in the Park remains unchanged this year. There will be six musical shows each week, noon hours Monday to Friday, and a Wednesday-evening show. The same visual artist will be at work for the whole week each noon hour.
Weather obviously plays a factor in attendance each day, but Doyon is adamant that the performances go on each day, rain or shine. They are prepared for bad weather with an adjustable wall tent for rain, and they can also provide warm blankets for those cooler Yukon days. On warm sunny days, the park has hosted up to 300 people.
Each year, Arts in the Park hosts a few special projects to display the creativity of the Yukon’s artistic talent and to add additional entertainment for the audience. A project that has been well-received for several years is the songwriter panels. This season will feature two songwriter panels on June 14 and July 26.
The panels are a collaboration project between four to eight singers and songwriters, which can include a variety of fields including DJs, spoken word artists and poets. The group is presented a theme and they create brand-new songs around that theme. They then debut those songs at the park. It is a creative and unique process that helps develop the Yukon’s musical talent, according to Doyon.
“The new stuff presented often becomes part of the musician’s repertoire,” Doyon explained. “It has a life well beyond the show.
“Last year, we matched writers with residents of Macaulay Lodge. And previously we’ve matched songwriters with photographers, to make music about the photos.
“And it is a new way to see musicians perform their songs. It’s vulnerable, raw, brand-new,” Doyon said. “The songs are unrefined and untested on audiences.”
Another key highlight that Doyon has pushed is to expand the diversity of musical acts performing at Arts in the Park. The organization has accessed some funding to support rural musicians who travel to perform this summer.
“Arts in the Park has been very Whitehorse-centric,” Doyon said. “We’d like to offer opportunities for community artists to get profile, both with Whitehorse residents and tourists who cannot make it out to the communities.”
This year the community artists program will present Dena Zagi from Ross River, acclaimed singer Diyet of the Kluane First Nation and Simon Crelli and his band from Dawson City.
As part of the expanded musical offerings, they are partnering with Splintered Craft and the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre to host the hip hop showcases that have been taking place this past winter. As well, Doyon has contacted Outside performers already planning to be in the Yukon, on tour, and leveraged their presence to secure performances at Arts in the Park. This year they will feature Ripple Illusion from Vancouver, O’Claire from Germany and Tiger Moon from Kelowna.
“We are scooping up artists from Atlin Music Festival and other touring artists,” Doyon said. “We have lots of local artists too, but but it’s good to get some touring acts that happen to be in the Yukon. We’re fortunate to have Outside acts, because not everyone can get to festivals and this still gives them a chance.”
Arts in the Park kicks off on May 22 and runs until August 3. The shows run Monday to Friday, noon to 1 p.m., and the youth-oriented evening show runs Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit their website at musicyukon.com/artsinthepark or email them at email@example.com.
Danny Macdonald is the editor of What’s Up Yukon. He is a lifelong Yukoner who is active in sports, community organizations and the Yukon’s events scene.
Arts in the Park Highlights:
Opening Day BBQ:
Visual Artist: Jona Barr
Musicians: Kevin Barr and Hank Karr
June 14 and July 26
Ripple Illusion (Vancouver)O’Claire(Germany) Tiger Moon (Kelowna)Dates TBA