“I am obsessed by creating community connections through art, it’s kind of a disease,” confesses Yukon visual artist Marie-Hélène Comeau.

So when she heard of the international art project called La Caravane des Dix Mots (Ten Word Caravan), she decided to take the lead on the first Yukon edition.

La Caravane des Dix Mots involves 178 projects from over 40 countries. Participants were given the same ten words: ambiancer, à tire-larigot, charivari, faribole, hurluberlu, ouf, timbré, tohu-bohu, zigzag, s’enlivrer. These were the source material to inspire art projects from all disciplines: creative writing, theatre, dance, visual arts, slam, etc.

There will be an art opening on June 12 at the Community Hall of the Centre de la francophonie to present pictures and a short movie documenting the process of the artistic project, as well as the results.

“It’s amazing to see how the same words resonate completely differently in people depending on their culture, age or personal baggage,” says Comeau.

One goal of the project is to give an artistic voice to those who don’t usually express themselves with art by having a professional artist offer workshops in different spheres of the community.

Comeau tackled the ten chosen words with 20 cardboard boxes. She brought 10 boxes to the École Émilie-Tremblay and 10 to Francophone community events.

“Each box was assigned a word,” explains Comeau. “Inspired by that word and through a variety of games, we painted and drew on the outside of the boxes, and covered the inside of them with writing.”

Comeau wants to create a bridge between adults and children in the Francophone community.

“Our community isn’t based on blood or interests, it’s our language that unites us, so I wanted each generation to discover the other one’s perspective on it through these ten words,” says Comeau. 

After several weeks of working with all the École Émilie Tremblay classes and carrying these boxes around to different community dinners and events, they were ready to reveal the fruits of their labour.

On May 15, Yukon Francophone Day, Comeau fired up her old Canada Post van (that she turned into a travelling gallery) with the 20-boxes-turned-art-pieces.

“A lot of people don’t go to theatres or galleries, so I fixed up this old van to bring art to them.”

She parked the van in front of École Émilie Tremblay in the morning and the Centre de la francophonie in the afternoon to show the children how the adults were inspired by the words, and vice-versa.

“I don’t like it when people are passive at an art show,” says Comeau.

So she invited everyone to write sentences inspired by one of the ten words on pre-cut paper.

She used magnets to hang the papers on the outside of the van.

“I never thought kids would respond so well to this part of the project, but they kept coming back for more pieces of paper to write sentences on,” she says. “It was fascinating to see how much you can get kids to write as soon as they leave the classroom.”

 The success of the community’s involvement in La Caravane des Dix Mots indicates a new Yukon artistic tradition.

Comeau is already thinking ahead:

“I want this to become a yearly project in the Yukon and I’m excited to do it again next year. The possibilities are endless.”

Readers have a whole year to sign up for a French class, or tstudy the dictionary before next year’s ten words arrive, waiting to be transformed into art.

The La Caravane des Dix Mots exhibit opens June 12, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Community Hall of the Centre de la francophonie, and runs to October 7, up until which time you can make your own box and have it part of the exhibit.