The Skookum Jim Friendship Centre is providing well-known Yukon artist Joseph Tisiga with a chance to undertake an exciting project that’s close to his heart.
Splintered Craft, a drop-in art studio for youth, now open in Yukon Plaza across from Tags, at 4230 4 Avenue. But get in there soon; its current funding only lasts till March 31, 2015.
Splintered Craft aims to enrich life for people between 16 and 25 years of age, but anyone who’d like to come by and become part of the art community is welcome.
Tisiga, the supervisor of the emergency youth shelter at Skookum Jim, mostly coordinates the staff and space for that shelter, which provides beds for young people aged 17 to 24, who need a place for the night.
He’s also the acting coordinator for Splintered Craft.
Its genesis is a story about seizing opportunities within short timelines.
Marney Paradis, the executive director of Skookum Jim, found a call for submissions from the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, and put it out to her coordinators. Tisiga recalls her saying: “If anyone’s interested, go for it.”
Tisiga responded. He applied in early December. He leapt at the chance to do so — he had wanted to put together a youth art space for a long time, so he had the vision. He had a week to figure out budgets, get the proposal reviewed by board members, and coordinate partnerships with other organizations in town, including the Northern Cultural Expressions Society, the Boys and Girls Club, YuKonstruct, and Many Rivers. This wasn’t so hard — everyone was really excited about it.
“I knew the turnaround was fast, but I thought, it’s worth taking a shot,” he says.
Tisiga figures he operates better under pressure. Having put together grant applications for his own art projects at the last minute, he knew how to imagine a project in an abstract way without having the physical elements present yet. For art grant applications, you have to “tell them what the work is before you make it.” Writing a grant includes telling enough of a story that the jurors can imagine it, about something whose details you will figure out along the way.
He found out on December 19 that his vision was a go.
Tisiga aims to create the atmosphere and resources for people to come in and try out art projects, including older people and families as well as his target 16-to-25 urban demographic.
“If they don’t have experience, or if they don’t have space, hopefully in the creation of that environment, people will acquire some new skills, broaden awareness of their own skills and what they’re capable of, in their own time,” he says.
Splintered Craft offers an alternative space for young people to come in, hang out, and avoid partying.
“It’s my personal opinion we need more going on for that demographic of youth who may not have a lot of spaces to hang out in and so get hooked into drinking and substance use; we need a space to go and be collective and not get into that whole darker side of socializing.”
A “youth-led philosophy” will shape programming in the space. Tisiga hopes to bring in artists to teach young people art forms that interest them. Staff will facilitate youth art projects, bringing in materials and mentors as is useful. “We’ll have to see what that actually looks like — that’s the philosophy — we have to discover the reality.”
Tisiga has hired Jonah Barr, who plays in the band Old Cabin, and Aimée Dawn Robinson, who was a co-organizer for Nuit Blanche last summer.
Tisiga believes that having a personal art practice is “stabilizing”, whether or not it becomes part of a person’s career. Tisiga is a new dad —- his son Novak was born eight months ago.
“Next to becoming a father, art making is one of the most impactful things I’ve ever been a part of.”
While current funding will only support the space until March 31, Tisiga hopes that if it’s successful he can keep it going somehow.
Doors opened Monday, January 19. When we spoke, the space was still in “setup mode”, and Tisiga planned to work through the weekend to have things ready. Splintered Craft is open Monday to Friday from noon to 8 p.m. At the time of the interview, Saturday hours were still to be determined, with Tisiga hoping for a later closing time.
To find out more, and how you can be part of Splintered Craft, visit the space, or look for its Facebook page (still in development at time of press). Also keep an eye out for an open house mid-February.