Sharing the Wealth, Creatively

Amber Walker feels grateful for her lot in life: her husband supports her financially so she can pursue her interests as a visual artist and playwright.

Over the past year, in Whitehorse, she has had many opportunities to pursue her artistic interests.

David Skelton of Nakai Theatre is helping her as she develops her play. Sandra Storey, the curator at Arts Underground, has helped her develop her ideas about her paintings. Fellow acrylic painter Marie-Hélène Comeau introduced her to willow charcoal as they worked together on a mural outside L’Association franco-yukonnaise.

She wanted to share this creative abundance with others: “I see a lot of people who are hurting like I was before I found what I wanted, so I want to help in my own way.”

So, as a volunteer she has scheduled a series of art workshops, called Empowering Women Through Art, through the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre. The 25-year-old artist hasn’t done much teaching before, but she had the inspiration to develop a series of art workshops that use the creative process as metaphors for the decisions and problem solving used in da

ily life.

Slanted more toward art therapy than technique, the workshops are open to all women, and Walker hopes to attract a mix of “women at risk” and women in more comfortable places in their lives.

“The main things I’ll be working with them on will be developing self-esteem and identity – who we are as individuals and women, and how things change.”

For example, the watercolour course approaches painting in terms of “building on a foundation until they are satisfied with the outcome” of their painting, and it invites comparisons of the painting process with their lives, in general.

But it won’t be an “advice-like situation”. It will be “more like looking at the different ways happiness can be attained, looking for it not from the outside but from the inside.”

Walker will supply herself with business cards from the different counsellors who offer actual counselling for women and will pass them on if participants raise questions that are beyond her depth.

Walker is amazed at the distance she’s come artistically in the past year. Just a couple of years ago she was working as a correctional officer in a prison in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The training course was shortened and they graduated early and were sent out on the floor before combat training.

Despite feeling less than fully trained, Walker wanted to work to save money to move to the Yukon with the man who would soon become her husband. And she did.

Her husband, youth support worker William Jones, has helped her, Walker says, “on almost every single project I’ve ever started and [he has] funded a lot of them. He will probably always be partnered in any project that I start.

“I always seem to drag him into it, but he goes smiling.”

The pair perform together as a singing and dance group called, People of Fire and Snow. The contemporary dance they do draws inspiration from the patchwork of heritage the two of them descend from.

“He’s mainly Southern Tutchone. I’m Aztec, Spanish, Mexican, French, Irish and German.”

“We sing in French, Southern Tutchone, English; and soon, Spanish as well. A lot of the songs we do are a mix and are performed a cappella and with drumming.”

They’re also both part of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council Dancers, as well.

Walker’s play is called 2012 Newscast. It’s a cynical play “based on what I’ve viewed in the news, so far,” tackling issues of commercialism, ethnicity, capitalizing on First Nations culture, gender equality and climate change.

She’s also working on proposals for shows of her own acrylic paintings.

The workshops she’s offering include Altered Books, Jewellery Making, Paint Throwing, Dancing Paint and Collage Making. They take place between now and early December.

She hopes “that when the workshop is done, the participants will be able to come up with me and say, ‘I’m glad you showed me this because I never would have looked at my life this way.'”

She’s also looking forward to these workshops shaking off the fall temptation to hibernate that she and many Yukoners feel, getting both her and her participants out of the house and into a creative environment supported by other women.

Contact the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre for more information or to register for one of the workshops.

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