The Yukon Artists @ Work Society (YA@W) are among those doing their best to adapt. They are the group of artists who run the gallery in the blue building at 4th and Wood St. They have come up with an innovative way to be present to their public within these new and shifting constraints.
The group has been active since 2003, beginning in a gallery out at MacRae, moving to Industrial Road, and then downtown to the Wood Street location. In addition to the gallery, the collective runs workshops and demonstrations, and collaborates with other groups to mount shared projects. YA@W co-presented Circumpolar Duet with Yukon Writers’ Collective Ink, the result of dialogues between the works of poets and artists, the last edition of which appeared last January. Artists working for artists, they make contexts to share each other’s artistic visions. The gallery meets its costs by commissions from art sales and the dues paid by member artists. It runs by the volunteer efforts of the group. Its basic function is not grant-funded.
When the COVID crisis began, the group implemented sanitizing and social distancing measures, limiting visitors to the gallery to 5 at a time. But then it seemed like they should just close, and so they did, March 24. As they brainstormed how to proceed, adapting to Zoom meetings, one member suggested doing some kind of special show in the windows. Then another member misunderstood what they meant, and The Artist In the Window was born.
YA@W artist Virginia Wilson kicked off The Artist in the Window April 15 with a series of mini-residencies. She made an installation of her acrylic Yukon landscapes in one of the 3-sided window pockets that frame the gallery door. In the other window, she set up her easel. Thursday to Saturday, 11 AM to 2 PM, she demonstrated her painting technique. Visitors could call and talk to her live on the gallery phone. One woman from the Czech Republic stood and watched for over an hour. A father and son came by to see what she was doing. CBC Television worked out a way to interview her through the window.
Wilson observed that it felt good to be out there doing something rather than hiding in her house.
The next week, Ann Mackenzie brought her needle felting to the window. Mackenzie is one of the founding members of the YA@W. The bright colours and textures entertained passers-by. She saw friends she hadn’t seen in a long time.
Lillian Loponen demonstrated wet-in-wet techniques in both acrylics and watercolours for the week of April 29.
At time of writing, the group was still looking forward to residencies by Susanne Hauserman, in textile arts, the week of May 6. She planned to work in cotton and organza, using a sewing machine and soldering iron. Jeanine Baker, the week of May 13, anticipated working in glass mosaic, and this week, beginning May 20, Patrick Royle has set up his potter’s wheel right in the window.
“The window allows viewers to actually get closer to an artist’s working process than they could without it,” observes group chair Nicole Bauberger. Visitors who wanted to arrange a private, carefully distanced and disinfected browse through the gallery could set up an appointment with Nicole.
In light of evolving policy around COVID-19 and the lack of community spread, the group plans to reopen the gallery for shifts, bringing in another member to host visitors while their colleague works in the window.
After Royle, Donald Watt will work in the windows and also staff the gallery. The artists plan to open for shorter hours to allow for disinfecting. No more than five guests will be welcomed to browse at once.
The group hopes it will be possible to return to more normal shifts, with a summer student allowing the artist to demonstrate their craft. In collaboration with Arts in the Park, the society has applied to remount focussed sessions of The Artist in the Window sessions this summer. Watch for details of that in late June.