In an effort to improve the Yukon Artists @ Work (YA@W) community gallery, creative hands from across the territory have been invited by the co-op to create birdhouses for a silent auction fundraiser taking place at the gallery on April 21.

The 17,000-some square-foot volunteer-run gallery is home to 36 cooperative Yukon artists who use the space to host workshops and showcase and sell their work.

“We’re kind of exploding at the seams,” says Harreson Tanner, one of the coordinators of the event, pointing out YA@W’s growth from 22 members two years ago when they moved into the space, four of which are new in last couple of weeks.

The space is wearing out and getting tight.

“We are hoping [to raise] about $3,000,” says Tanner.

“We generate enough revenue to pay the rent, and the lights, and the phone and whatever, but we don’t get into a position where we can spruce things up and add extra fixtures, and eventually expand.”

This birdhouse, up for auction at the Birdhouse Fundraiser, is a detailed replica of a wall tent, including the tie-downs and the stove, tiny Coleman lantern sitting in the front, and a pile of “logs” for the fire Credit:

The gallery, which is located on Industrial Road, is a step down in size from the 25,000 square-foot original location, which was farther from the city’s core.

“In order to provide a space for [new members] to exhibit, we have to construct some new rolling panels for the flat work, and we need some locking cabinets for jewelers who are going to bring their work in, and we just don’t have them at this point,” Tanner adds.

“And, of course, we need to paint the place!”

The gallery is changed about once every three to four weeks.

“Eventually there is more holes than there is paint!” he laughs.

“It is such a good community gallery, and the co-op does so much in the community… We sat down and realized we had raised close to $100,000 in eight years for various charities or causes.”

One major initiative of YA@W is the Yukon Artist Relief Fund, which supports struggling artists in the territory.

Tanner, born in Ottawa, is one of three founders who established the co-op over coffee in August 2003, following his move to Whitehorse from Vancouver.

Born in Ottawa, Tanner has been sculpting for 25 years and living in Whitehorse for the past nine.

He was involved in a co-op in Vancouver, and brought that experience to help start the only artist co-op of its kind in the Yukon.

“I didn’t think it was anything difficult, it was just a matter of developing a forum that worked for everybody,” says Tanner.

This is the first Birdhouse Fundraiser the co-op has put on.

“We’d often talked about what it would look like if we could do it and we finally came up with this idea, and I noticed a couple of birding organizations have linked us onto their site, so people are really, you know, excited about it.”

The birdhouses can be functional or non-functional for wildlife—the only restriction is that the submissions are in by April 16 and the houses must be in 3D form.

The silent auction bids will depend on the structure. Some may start at $50, others may be more, depending on what they are made of.

So far Tanner has received about six houses.

“One of them that came in was a 24 square-inch log home with a deck on it, and the roof actually opened on one side, but the whole roof was made out of squares of poplar, and it was all inlaid, so the artist will decide on that one because obviously it is worth more than $50.

“I know there is one being done by Jeanine and Paul Baker that is all done in steel with fused-glass walls and ceilings. They researched woodpecker habitat and apparently [woodpeckers] like stairs, so there is a little set of stairs going into the house.”

Another submission is made of silk, thread and paper in the shape of a yurt.

The gallery will be arranged like a forest with the houses mounted on fence posts provided by Paul Baker.

“It should be very funky,” says Tanner.

The artists will cater the event by bringing their favourite dishes, and there will be refreshments and wine. Tanner hopes for music, too.

“A number of people called us and said, ‘I love the gallery and I go there all the time. I like to fiddle in my workshop, would be okay if I made one and brought it in and donated it?’

“I said yes, we might even kiss you on both cheeks!” Tanner laughs.

If submissions are made from the communities, the co-op is offering to pay the freight to get it in.

For more information, contact the gallery at 867-993-4848.