“I call this one ‘The Matchmaker’… because she’s the one who matched my mom and dad to me.”
Ryan Lawrence, 14, beams at his work on the table.
He’s staring at one of about eight photos he is entering into this year’s art show at the ATCO Youth Art Gallery in the Yukon Arts Centre.
Lawrence, collage artist Amzie Cooke-Goodall, and Mario Macrae are just three of the many talented Whitehorse youth photographers featured at the show, all with either Autism or other learning disabilities.
Lawrence is exhibiting a series of photos he took when he was three-years-old. He took these photos during his final visit to the inter-country adoption agency in the Philippines before travelling to Canada to start his life with his adoptive parents.
Looking over the photos, we come across a photo called ‘Serious’. It is of a stern-looking woman leaning over her desk, clearly deep in conversation with his parents.
Lawrence’s mother, Rachel Grantham, proudly describes the moment: “You have your own kid documenting, while we were very into this conversation, and he picked up the camera – well you see the height that he’s at, and she was explaining… she’s looking really serious.”
After hearing Lawrence’s story, while looking over her own son’s photos, project founder Lian Goodall explains, “Everyone has something varied, and we also have all the photos from Camp Raven.”
This is the show’s second year. Last year’s theme, “Summer Fun”, was open to all mediums and showcased a wide variety of things, including sculptures and T-shirts. This year’s show is called “Journeys”, and is focused on photography.
The show opened on Aug. 9 with a representative from ATCO Electric cutting the ribbon.
The project is open to all youth participants of the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon (LDAY), Autism Yukon, and Camp Raven programs.
Camp Raven is a day camp for children aged seven to 14. It’s organized and run by Learning Disabilities Yukon during the various school breaks in Whitehorse.
“I have a son who has a lot of learning disabilities, but he is also very very creative, and needed more of an even playing field to showcase that creativity,” Goodall says. “And I figured that there were possibly other children with learning disabilities that maybe don’t have the technique but have the passion.
“Sure, they have a learning disability, but they do have lot of creativity and that can come out in so many different ways that might not happen in school.
“And how often do you see kids experiencing photography at the elementary (school) level?
While discussing the joys and challenges of putting something of this magnitude together Goodalls says “It’s just me, I’m not affiliated with anything.”
When faced with the challenge of building the show itself, Goodall turned to the staff at the Yukon Arts Centre.
“The physicality of putting together a show could not happen without the people at the arts centre, because honestly they just know how to make it look good.
“They just, open it up. It’s an amazing space that we have. It has great lighting, and it’s a real show for our kids. It’s not just some back alley or something.”
Last year’s event, organized by Goodall, also displayed photos from Camp Raven as well as the artwork of Amzie Cooke – Goodall.
“I think what was incredible last year was how happy the parents were. Anything that can make our children stars is great. I got so many thank yous.”
The show will run until Aug. 27 in the ATCO Electric Youth Gallery located in the Yukon Arts Centre. For more information go to www.YukonArtsCentre.com/gallery/youthgallery .