The Yukon Government Administrative building is chock full of art. Located on 2nd Avenue at Hanson Street, the site boasts 22 works from the Yukon Permanent Art Collection – the most of any of the locations featuring the public collection.
I felt like an intrepid explorer, going there with my list of works to track down. It’s an adventure to treat this building as a museum when it also serves many other purposes. It occurred to me that one could meet a friend for lunch at one of the establishments in the area, and then make an art-viewing excursion. Let’s make this a well-trodden path.
Work that was purchased this year is easiest to find.
An exhibit of these new acquisitions animates the front foyer, including the swoop of Joyce Majiski’s “The Lobster Trap,” and Suzanne Paleczny’s larger than life “Winter Beard,” with ice crystals you can almost feel.
Short statements from each artist add to their meaning.
On the way into the legislature, glass cases display 3D work. Here I find sculptures by Mrs. Kitty Smith and Chief Billy Smith. I have long been intrigued by their “Totem,” a stack of four animal heads carved from one piece of poplar. The smooth forms don’t look like Northwest Coast style art; they offer something different.
Also on display, Mrs. Smith’s bear, with “YUKON” burned into the base, suggests to me an ambiguous story. The bear hunches uncomfortably in its standing posture, carrying out, and at the same time resisting, its role. Mrs. Kitty Smith left a legacy of stories in written form by means of her collaborations with anthropologist Julie Cruikshank. I’m grateful for the chance to see her work.
Accompanying Smith’s sculptures are Kenneth Coyne’s “Sixth Shaman” made of radiating flattened metal flakes, Dolores Scheffen’s “Han Singing Doll,” Dennis Shorty’s “Knowledge Keeper,” and William Atkinson’s “Wolverine Mask,” asking the viewer to think about First Nations culture from many different angles.
Walk over to the Cabinet and Caucus desk across the stairway and look back to see the other side of Shorty’s “Knowledge Keeper.” An old face balances the younger one.
While there, you can view Bela Simo’s “Couple 1” carved in basswood with a luminous green finish made of green pigment and beeswax.
Jessica Hall, the receptionist, observes that this sculpture stops visitors in their tracks.
To see the works in the Cabinet and Caucus offices, ask permission at the front desk beside the main art exhibit. It’s best to do so after 1 p.m.
It’s also worth asking to see the imposing Fireweed tapestry by Vancouver artist Joanne Staniszkis hanging in the legislative assembly hall. It hangs behind the Speaker’s chair. The richness of colour in its fibres glows with a presence no reproduction can match.
Don’t miss the artwork downstairs in the Opposition offices.
Monti Patterson of Community Services enjoys the rotation of artwork very much. She finds the work welcoming and inspiring. She says it reminds her of the “creative energy flowing” through the Yukon society.
These are only a few of the works you can see in the Yukon Government Main Administrative Building. Across the street at the Tourist Information Centre you can pick up a copy of “Art Adventures on Yukon Time” for more information about the permanent artworks installed in the building, including more tapestries and stained glass. It’s in the Whitehorse section under “Where to see and buy arts and crafts.”
The offices are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but viewing access is likely best after lunch.