Diverse work comes out of a varied landscape

Though always a popular spot with locals and tourists alike, the basalt columns of Miles Canyon received more than 450 visitors over the weekend of July 5 and 6 for the Created at the Canyon art exhibit. Hosted by the Yukon Conservation Society, Created at the Canyon is an outdoor, interactive art event that celebrates local nature and history with the help of six Yukon artists working through various mediums. Traversing trails that have been in use for thousands of years, visitors this past weekend were treated to six exhibits spread out along the river at various stations. There, local artists created their works in real time while chatting with passersby. The various mediums employed ran the gamut from acrylic and watercolour painting to beadwork, music and dance.
The troupe Borealis Soul carried a whole living room furniture set throughout the canyon in order to film a video over the course of the weekend.

“This experience was inspiring,” said Dixie Smeeton, a visual and textile artist who lives in Haines Junction. “The scenery was incredible and the company was great.” Smeeton’s creation was a piece of wall art with beadwork and various natural elements found in Miles Canyon.
“I have a salmon in the centre of my piece to highlight our current state of salmon stocks in the Yukon/west coast rivers,” she said. “This piece will be shadow boxed and sewn on smoke tan hide.”
Smeeton, like most of the artists, is not yet finished her piece; she intends to continue work on it over the next month. Due to the windy and dusty conditions, some artists found creating their works in an outdoor environment to be an unusual, though welcome, challenge. Cathy Routledge, a local watercolour artist, was one. She completed a small piece that she intends to rework in the studio, but she still found the experience exciting and engaging.

“It’s always a great experience to do art with other artists outside. It might be a bit of a surprise what I actually come up with in the end,” she said. “There were so many people, so that’s tremendous. It’s such a popular spot for local people anyway. It’s really great to see that there are so many people accessing that place. It’s such a cool project, and a great partnership with the Conservation Society. “

Weather aside, working outdoors in a public, populous space was a novel experience for acrylic artist Chantel Goodman.
“It was really exciting to be doing public art because painting is usually such a solitary activity, so it was nice to have community conversations with local people and with tourists from all over the world, too,” she said. “I talked to people from Whitehorse, from Switzerland, the States, Germany, all over the place.”
Goodman’s painting depicts the mouth of the canyon, the basalt cliffs and the peninsula—all iconic Yukon imagery. However, she chose this particular vista while thinking of all the various groups of people with very different histories who have passed through this area over the last century.
“I picked that spot because I was thinking about how the space was used previously by first nations people, by gold rushers, and how it’s used now, with recreational enthusiasts and tourists and locals.”

The sense of community mentioned by artists and attendees alike pays tribute to the importance of Miles Canyon in Yukon culture, as well as to the unique and inspiring nature of this annual event.

“[Created at the Canyon] was fun, it was community-oriented, engaging, inspiring,” Goodman concluded. “I encourage anybody interested in art to apply for the event next year. It was such a great opportunity to do art in a public space with an audience.”

The artists will complete their pieces over the next few weeks. The finished artwork will all be displayed in an exhibit from Aug. 1 to 31 at the Community Gallery in the Yukon Arts Centre. There will be a launch party on Thursday, Aug. 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome to join in the celebration of our rich local history and talented community artists.