The Yukon’s beauty stuns. And yet even in this context the Tombstone Territorial Park stands out. It’s a kind of iconic distillation of the Yukon’s beauty.
This summer, you’ll be able to see that landscape through the eyes of 10 artists, through the Art Magic in Tombstone program coordinated by Friends of Dempster Country and park interpretive staff.
If you spot one of these artists working on a week day, you can go and look over their shoulder, chat with them a bit.
Then each Friday at 7:30 pm you can attend a free artist talk, and at 10 am on Saturday the artist of the week will offer a hands-on workshop in their area of artistic expertise, for which you’ll pay only the cost of the materials.
“The idea came from seeing artists up here and having fleeting glimpses of artists at work. We thought, wow, would it ever be nice to facilitate something where the artists and public could interact,” says Cathie Findlay-Brook, interpretive supervisor at Tombstone.
Over the past few years, the not-for-profit group Friends of Dempster Country has offered special themed weekend programs exploring various aspects of the natural history of the park, using short-term International Polar Year funding.
These programs led campers to learn more about the mammals, birds, geology, insects, lichens and fungi in the park. As part of each weekend, an artist led an art activity meant to deepen participants’ investigation of these topics.
Findlay-Brook found that people who participated in these programs really enjoyed them, whether they were art-interested folks who had not had a special interest in geology before that weekend, or rockhounds who had never lifted a brush before.
“I felt there was a real desire to expand on this.”
The Friends of Dempster Country’s vision statement includes “increasing understanding and appreciation of the unique land through which the Dempster Highway passes, ultimately cultivating deeper respect for Dempster Country.”
Findlay-Brook convinced the board that the Art Magic in Tombstone project would deepen that understanding, appreciation and respect. In partnership with the Tombstone Territorial Park, the group successfully applied to the Yukon Arts Fund.
The artists taking part span a wide range of media. Cynthia Hunt painted in watercolour July 22 and 23. Faye Chamberlain will be tufting with caribou hair and making art from fish scales this weekend.
Painter and printmaker Joyce Majiski will be sketching in the uplands past Grizzly Creek before giving her artist talk and lino printing workshop August 12 and 13. You can meet Dawson acrylic painter Mary Dolman August 19 and 20.
Author Joanne Bell and glass artist Jeanine Baker will share the weekend of August 26 and 27. Baker will be working in glass mosaic that week, and offering her popular glass mosaic workshop on the Saturday.
Bell’s fiction roams the back country near the park. She will lead writing workshops in her favourite setting.
Sculptor Harreson Tanner, whose faces of Annie and Joe Henry are installed further up the highway at Black City, has September 2 and 3. In a late addition, I will be joining the Magic project that week as well and painting in oils.
Acrylic painter John Boivin rounds out the season, painting the last of the fall colours and presenting on September 9 and 10.
When I spoke with Findlay-Brook, the first artist in the series, Cynthia Hunt, had just given her talk and workshop. Findlay-Brook was pleased that 16 people had attended, even though advertising had been limited.
Ten people took part in the workshop the next day. Yukon Minister of Culture Elaine Taylor also happened to be up in the park. She took up a pencil and joined in the drawing exercises at the beginning of the workshop.
The rest of the group then went out for a short walk up the highway, and sat and painted for about two hours out in the field.
In addition to Art Magic in Tombstone, the park’s Interpretive Centre offers a full events schedule each week, with daily events ranging from campfire programs to interpretive hikes to bannock and tea.