Creative Getaway

Perhaps your partner is sick of navigating around that massive quilting frame to get to the living room couch.

Perhaps you’re tired of moving that big felting project off the kitchen table day after day, so the family can have supper.

If so, a month of free studio space in a delightful location, with very few strings attached, may provide a needed boost to your creative spirit.

The Yukon Arts Centre (YAC), in conjunction with the Yukon Film Society (YFS), is sponsoring a residency for a qualified crafter at the historic Jenni House in Shipyards Park next month.

Jessica Vallenga is YAC’s coordinator of community engagement for visual arts, and principle organizer of the residency. When the film society offered YAC one of its summer residency spots in the city-owned building, it seemed like a natural way to mark the Canadian Crafts Federation’s national 2015 Craft Year initiative. “It’s a nice, bright heritage building in Shipyards Park. It’s a great place to work: lots of public engagement, people are coming by for the Thursday market, or just doing their regular walk on the trail,” Vallenga says. “There’s not a lot of furniture in it right now. It’s not a residence or a house to live in, but it is meant to be a studio. Basically, it’s a bright, open space, right on the Yukon River. It’s a lovely place to work.”

The Jenni House began its life on the east bank of the Yukon River, as part of the Savoy Hotel, one of the first buildings in Whitehorse. In 1900, the hotel was moved to Front Street and renamed the Pioneer. In 1950, it was broken up and converted into three small homes in the city’s Shipyards area.

Two of those houses, the Jenni House and the Hatch House, underwent major restoration by the City of Whitehorse in 2008 as part of the development of the sprawling Shipyards Park. The Jenni House still boasts the Pioneer Hotel’s square facade, a permanent reminder of the city’s Gold Rush-era heritage.

This year, through an agreement with the city, YFS has opened the 225-square foot log building to a series of residencies in various artistic disciplines. The only commitment, Vallenga says, is that the artist in residence must be available to the public by providing workshops in their craft, and hold one public event to explain their practice. “Hopefully, it will be a time for the public to come by and learn a new skill, or brush up on an old one that will be craft-based. So, it will be about community education and engagement.”

So far, the offer has attracted attention from both Yukon and outside applicants. “We can’t provide accommodation or travel or any of those things, but we can provide a $500 honorarium that can help support their residency,” Vallenga says.

The successful applicant is expected to provide their own materials, but the YAC has a limited amount of supplies that could be made available, depending on the specific type of craft.

But the key ingredient, Vallenga stresses, is the opportunity to have a special room of one’s own, even if just for a month. “In Yukon, there’s not a lot of studio spaces, so it’s really wonderful to have a place where you can just build your creation,” she says. “It’s a really inspiring environment, and you’re not trying to do it in a corner of your kitchen, or your basement.”

The Jenni House craft residency runs from August 1-31. Deadline for applications is Monday, July 20 at 5:00 p.m. Details are available at

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