“I stayed up all night,” says carver, Duran Henry Jr., a 24-year-old Kwanlin Dun First Nation member. He was nervous about the Sundog Retreat Carving Program opening at its new location.

Its carving program has expanded and moved to 4194A Fourth Avenue, former home of the Yukon Trapper’s Association.

Henry is busily readying for the Yukon First Nations Arts Festival (YFNAF). He and other Sundog carvers will be some of the many Aboriginal visual artists displaying and demonstrating their work.

Henry always dreamt of being an artist. He’s a Southern Tutchone who was raised in Whitehorse and, as a child, went from group home to group home.

“I met up with Andrew Finton and showed him my artwork and it went from there,” explains the young carver.

In the fall of 2006, he took part in the Carving our Path program instructed by Tlingit carver Calvin Morberg. The carving program is run by Andrew and Heather Finton.

To look for inspiration, he only had to look at his own family. Henry is the son of artist Ray Shorty and the nephew of artists Richard, Jim and Eddie Shorty.

“I want to carry on the artist name in my family,” Henry proudly proclaims. Recently, his uncle Richard Shorty was visiting Whitehorse and provided mentorship for Henry’s painted panel with a relief carving of the wolf and crow crests.

Shortly afterwards, he completed his first panel, Raven & Sun, based on the well-known story of Raven bringing the sun, moon and the stars to the world to share. As a member of the Crow clan himself, the story had significance for him.

One thing he likes about carving is the traditional stories behind each carving. This panel depicts the Raven transforming from all-white feathers to all-black feathers as the trickster figure carries the sun through the smoke hole of traditional longhouses. With pride, Henry reveals that he sold the panel to his “famous” uncle Richard Shorty.

Other pieces were sold to YTG and private collectors.

When asked what he liked about the Sundog Carving Program, he had no shortage of answers: “It’s awesome! Without Heather and Andrew I’d be nowhere.” He lists the many benefits the program has given him as a new carver: publicity, recognition as an artist and high-calibre teachers.

Henry mentions that his friends are jealous and a bit in awe when they see his carvings. They wish they had his talent and recognition.

In two short years, the Sundog Retreat Carving Program has helped Henry bring his dreams to life. He shares that his goals include “to be a worldwide-known artist.”

At the closing of this interview, Henry says, “I want to thank my Dad, Ray, and uncles Jim, Eddy and Richard for showing me the way of artistic abilities that I’ll never forget.”

PHOTO: RICK MASSIE [email protected]