Artists Emerging

It’s an art show so big it needs two galleries to display it.

With nearly 200 works by 70 young Weekday Warriors, it may be the biggest exhibit by emerging artists ever to hit the Yukon.

Throughout the month of June, the Boys & Girls Club of Yukon (BGC) takes over both the Rah Rah Gallery on 6th Avenue and the gallery space at Northern Front Studio in Waterfront Station to showcase the work of some very young artists.

While the show includes some pieces by teenagers from the BGC’s drop-in centre, most of the work is by kids between the ages of five and 12, who are part of the club’s Weekday Warriors after-school program at four local elementary schools.

“It’s pretty awesome, and the kids got right into it,” says show co-ordinator Kaylee Lishner. “Once they started making, they just didn’t stop.”

Lishner, who has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Alberta College of Art and Design, says the show does more than provide an artistic outlet for the youngsters.

“There’s nothing better than them getting built up by seeing their work on the wall, and someone else that’s maybe not their family, or someone they know, telling them they did a good job,” she says.

As BGC’s art program area leader, Lishner focused on three disciplines for the program that culminated in this month’s display, beginning with a drawing project.

“Basically, we wanted to teach the process of drawing, starting off with the idea, then going to a rough draft, and then making the final sketches,” she says.

“So we’ve got rough drafts and final sketches on display at Northern Front Studio.”

The next phase involved learning linoleum print-making techniques, including “trying to print with no finger marks, which is challenging when they’re as young as that,” Lishner says. “Some of them did a fabulous job with that.”

The third component of the show is felting.

“They did what’s called roll felting, or wet felting, where you lay it out, then you get it wet with soap and then roll it in bubble-wrap,” she explains. “They had a lot of fun with that one.”

Four days before the show’s June 6 opening — which was catered by youth from the BGC’s drop-in centre — architect Mary Ellen Read returned from a few days away from her workplace at Northern Front Studio.

“I walked in this morning, and both walls were covered with these really awesome prints made by boys and girls,” she says.

Not that artwork is anything new at her Waterfront Station locale. Read’s firm regularly hosts art exhibitions in a 14×24-foot space dedicated to that purpose.

Since the gallery started nearly 18 months ago, “We’ve had a show every month, and we’re booked up until Christmas,” she says.

“It’s mostly word-of-mouth, but it is a free space, which some of my friends tell me is actually pretty hard to come by in town here.”

Read, who also designed Waterfront Station, got the idea to incorporate a free gallery space into her business from a mentor in Vancouver who uses part of his office space to display the work of an artist friend.

“We see a variety of people and clients who come through our office who may not always be exposed to this type of stuff, and so that’s where it came from,” Read says.

“We were trying something that was conceptual, so it’s an empty room. There’s no other use of the space, it’s an art-focused space,” she adds. “We were hoping people would sort of break off the walls a bit and get a bit dynamic with the space.”

For Read and her two colleagues at Northern Front Studio, the gallery provides a dual benefit.

“We get a great, inspiring art show every month, and get some creative ideas from the artistic community around us,” she says.

“And I’m hoping it gets people to think about architecture in a new way — that it’s not just about buildings and development, it’s a whole extension of creativity.”

For Lishner’s budding artists, having their work displayed publically offers an equally clear benefit.

“That’s like the ultimate cake in the end, building their self-esteem for future endeavours. Building their confidence that they can start something they didn’t know about, and do it successfully.”

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