Nurturing a new generation of Yukon artists

Every year, the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture (KIAC) in Dawson City welcomes high school students from across the territory for a four day hands-on art-making intensive – the Youth Art Enrichment (YAE) program. Entering it’s 18th year, YAE is taking place March 11 -14, 2019.

Youth aged from 14 to 18, who have an interest in visual, performing, or media arts, are invited to participate. Throughout the week, students delve into one of three mediums of their choice under the mentorship and guidance of respected Yukon artists.

Workshops vary every year and have included options such as stop-motion animation, improv performance, sculpture, and photography. This year, the program features Eugene Alfred, a highly skilled Northern Tutchone and Tlingit woodcarver from Pelly Crossing, Whitehorse-based artist Meshell Melvin, who puts the “FUN” in Fundamentals of Drawing, and Amy Tessaro, also of Whitehorse, who teaches the intricacies of stained-glass windows and suncatchers.

In addition to their medium of choice, students are involved in other art-related activities during their time in Dawson City, such as meeting local artists and KIAC artists-in-residence, as well as navigating potential career paths with their peers and mentors.

Each day begins with a group breakfast before students head to the studio spaces at KIAC and the nearby Yukon School of Visual Art (SOVA). After a busy day of art-making, students unwind with dinner followed by a variety of fun evening activities – a film screening, board games, button-making, and yoga.

Artworks created throughout the week are publicly exhibited in Dawson on the final evening of camp, which is often the first time students see their work professionally displayed in a gallery setting. The work is later displayed in Whitehorse at the ATCO Electric Yukon Youth Gallery at the Yukon Arts Centre.

For nearly two decades, the program’s curriculum has equipped Yukon youth with professional skills, knowledge, and experiences to prepare them for a post-secondary education in the arts – or at the very least put it on the radar.

SOVA opened its doors in 2007 as a collaborative project between the Yukon College, KIAC, and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. The program offers a Foundation Year equivalent to the first year of a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree with credits transferable to many of Canada’s arts universities.

YAE participants enjoy an evening of music presented by SOVA students at the Alchemy Cafe

“YAE participants are often given a tour of the school facilities, a great chance to make sure that future students feel welcome here, especially those coming from communities outside of Dawson,” said SOVA Director, Aubyn O’Grady. “We sometimes even see art created during the YAE workshops in portfolio submissions to SOVA.”

O’Grady remarks that YAE plays a crucial role in fostering young Yukon creatives – the program not only shows the possibilities of what art can be, but also that it is a viable and valuable pursuit after high school.

Cole Pauls is an award-winning comic artist, illustrator, and printmaker originally from Haines Junction. He is one of many Yukon youth who participated in YAE throughout high school then attended SOVA upon graduation. He continued on to earn a BFA in Illustration at Emily Carr University.

When asked about the relationship between YAE and SOVA, Paul said, “The YAE program gave me my first taste of art school. Each year I attended YAE, it made me want to enrol at SOVA & live in Dawson more and more. During Youth Art Enrichment, I established connections with other artists and I discovered what a thriving art community looked like.”

This year’s program will take place during March break for many Yukon schools and details for attendance are arranged by KIAC. Financial assistance is available to help cover the registration fee. This unique program is made possible through generous contributions of multiple programs, governments and organizations. For more information, visit KIAC’s website,

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