A Rich Claxton figure.

Artrepreneur: A Yukon Perspective in Abbotsford

“It’s amazing to see these Yukon art works all together. It gives me a sense of what it would be like to experience the Yukon. I feel like I’m up there, right now.”

Jeff Stackhouse is an Abbotsford artist. Tonight he’s taking in the opening of What’s Going on Up There?, the Yukon Artists @ Work exhibition.

It’s the newest show opening in the main space of The Reach Museum Gallery in Abbotsford (www.thereach.ca). The institution combines the functions of a museum and a gallery in one building.

Museum exhibits about the people of Abbotsford take up one half of the enormous showing hall. What’s Going on Up There brings Abbotsford face to face with the Yukon as seen through the eyes of 20 member artists of the Yukon Artists @ Work Cooperative.

Air North sponsored the show, providing one of the eight flights free. And without the help of the Yukon Touring Artists Fund, with the other costs of shipping and travel, the show simply wouldn’t have happened.

Harreson Tanner, Daphne Mennell, Jeanine Baker, Heidi Hehn, Bob Atkinson, Lynne Sofiak, Kerry Fletcher and myself – we eight artists from Yukon Artists @ Work – tore ourselves away from this awesome Yukon summer weather to attend the show’s opening.

We gave artist talks, demonstrated our art forms and offered workshops for people brave enough to try them.

Friday and Saturday nights were filled with quirky short films from the Yukon.

The Reach has been open less than nine months and is still developing its marketing strategies. Numbers attending events grew over the course of the weekend, from fairly thin to a good crowd Saturday night.

Curator Scott Marsden’s installation of the show thrilled all of the artists.

Lynne Sofiak enjoyed being able to get back and look at larger works, well-lit, from a longer perspective.

Kerry Fletcher values the Yukon Artists @ Work Gallery out in McCrae, describing it as a “beautiful commercial space.” But to see it in this museum context “elevated the work” to a new level for her.

Bob Atkinson, Yukon Artists @ Work chairman, commented that “out at [email protected], you see a little bit here and a little bit there. The way the show was laid out, you got a truer picture of [email protected]’s diversity.”

Scott Marsden wanted to show Abbotsford exactly that: the diversity of practice and materials [email protected] supports. To him, the exhibition “shows the public that there’s a lot of artistic activity up North.

“This diversity of perspectives will add to their understanding of a region of Canada that’s virtually unknown to the people of Abbotsford.”

A Rich Claxton figure.
A Rich Claxton figure.

He’s inspired by the way the show makes a whole of so many different perspectives.

“The reason this show exists is that six years ago a group of artists with few resources sat down and said there needs to be something different in the Yukon, aside from the Art Society and the Arts Centre.

“They decided to join together to support each other and support artistic practice in the Yukon, to work together as a co-operative to do that.”

The artists used their time off to distribute invitations to the show in Vancouver. Viewing these galleries also nourished the artists. Jeanine Baker loves to see “what’s new and innovative in any medium”, especially in the metal and glass jewellery on Granville Island.

Kerry Fletcher is overwhelmed by the positive response to her work. It has encouraged her to keep doing what she’s doing. She can’t wait to get back to her studio.

She’s also re-affirmed her place in the [email protected] collective. “I was hurting yesterday from laughing.” She values the positive energy and pride in the group that this trip has brought her.

Heidi Hehn brought her work down to Vancouver last fall for the One of a Kind Show. This new show re-confirmed an impression she had at that time, that Yukon artwork was professional and high-quality enough to “stand well outside the territory”.

Bob Atkinson observes that “we sometimes take for granted the people in the [[email protected]] gallery.

“This show gives a much-truer picture of the talent of the people associated with [email protected]

“The show has just begun,” says Scott Marsden as he drives the group and their demonstration materials back to the airport.

The show continues at The Reach Museum Gallery until Sept. 6.

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