As soon as Nerissa Rosati leaves the room, Harreson Tanner leans over and says, “Talk about what an amazing person I get to work with.”
He then waves his arm to show the half-finished art gallery the two of them are bu
ilding; a little flick of the hand at the end punctuates it with a “Can-you-believe-it?”.
Within the breadth of the arm wave, there are lights aimed at bare easels that will soon hold a variety of Northern art, pinths that hold up statues and will double as storage space and walls that are painted in sections – green for spring, yellow for summer, dark red for fall and winter white – and trimmed so expertly, as well as funky counters that were obtained from the recently closed Zola’s Café Doré.
“Nerissa, being the genius that she is, made it all fit,” says Tanner.
Rosati comes bounding back with an enthusiasm that is delightful to watch. She is the owner-operator of the Yukon’s newest art gallery: Copper Moon Gallery. And Tanner is her curator.
Trying to remove herself from her renovation business, yet still keeping her hand in woodworking and bookkeeping, Rosati is starting a new chapter in her life as she takes her building in the McCrae Industrial Area to its next configuration.
Instead of being a former industrial warehouse with Yukon Artists @ Work Gallery, and various studios and offices, it has morphed into the home of two galleries … and various studios and offices.
With a door that links the two galleries, there is now 4,000 square feet of art and 60 artists represented.
“This,” says Tanner, referring to the side-by-side galleries, “will be the jewel in the crown of the artistic community.”
Rosati says her plans for this “Rosati Arts and Business Centre” will continue outdoors in the spring as she will clean up the yard and build areas for artist demonstrations and maybe a picnic shelter.
Part of the plan will hopefully be the Yukon Women In Trades and Technology. Its offices and shops are on the ground floor of the building. Perhaps its members can build the facilities and offer their own demonstrations and workshops.
Much of these plans, however, hinge on her ability to sell a cabin that is now in the way. As busy as she has been, she hasn’t been able to market it properly.
Rosati and Tanner reproach each other for getting ahead of themselves when they haven’t even unpacked all of the boxes of art that have been arriving for the opening.
Surveying one wooden crate, Tanner says it is from Halin de Repentigny of Dawson City.
He muses that he is glad that it arrived, even though it was addressed to Yukon Artists @ Work.
As the founding member of the artist co-operative, he is still very much identified with it. However, Tanner says he has been excused from working his shifts there and is just a member now.
Another crate elicits another comment: “Jennifer sent a 150-pound crate from Yellowknife,” says Tanner. “Yet we are an unknown.”
He says it is proof of the excitement he has been received with at every turn.
Jennifer Walden, Inuvik’s Great Northern Arts Festival top new artist, last year, is Copper Moon Gallery’s first guest artist.
She shares the honour with Alec Lawson of Tukatuk, Québec, who was the Inuvik festival’s top carver.
Selling their art on consignment at the gallery is a who’s who of Yukon art.
“Everyone knows Sheila Alexandrovich,” says Tanner. “But she has pieces specific for us that not even her friends have seen,” along with those closet artists many have not heard from.
Tanner points to three canvasses, the larger one depicting roiling clouds under a bright yellow sun. “They are from Meagan Garrett, a teacher in Old Crow. They just love her up there.”
She is one of many artists in the Yukon who have had limited exposure, whether it is because of confidence issues, or distance or not fitting in with the YA@W model (not everyone can work a shift in a store, explains Tanner).
“I’ve been running into all sorts of people who have art.”
“You’ve heard of ‘Stay Another Day’?” asks Rosati, of the Tourism promotion to encourage tourists to spend more time in the Yukon. “Here it is spend another hour.”
To help keep patrons in the two galleries, longer, they have built a small serve-yourself coffee shop featuring a special blend made by Midnight Sun.
Sitting at tables at the front entrance, Tanner and Rosati try the blend for the first time with their new coffee maker.
“It has the aura of the entire arts community,” says Tanner.
“With a dash of art’s spirit and a pinch of tenacity,” responds Rosati.
It should be explained here that Tanner and Rosati have been working hard and late to get ready for the opening.
It will be Friday, Feb. 6, between 5 and 9 p.m., with a ceremony at 6 p.m.
“I’ll make my special punch,” says Tanner.
“With orange slices in the shapes of crescent moons,” adds Rosati.
“And apples,” says Tanner.
Yes, they’ve been working very hard.