Sitting at a table in the Gold Pan Saloon, enjoying a reception for the Santa Claus Parade volunteers, I met some incredible young people who were new to the Yukon.
They came here, without knowing anyone, and sought a “community” to join. None of them played sports and they didn’t work in large offices that would usually allow them to harvest friendships.
So, instead, they looked to the arts for “community” and they were not disappointed.
That was me, 20 years ago. Except I was married with a child on the way. Instead of the arts, our community became other young families who were new to the Yukon.
Christmas could have been a lonely time for us, so we gathered together for some wonderful parties.
We called ourselves “Yukon Orphans” because we were without families nearby and did not have the wherewithal to afford a trip Outside.
Besides, a few of us worked retail and that means you only get one day off for Christmas.
Our children called the other parents Aunt and Uncle in an attempt to foster a feeling of family that many of us had left behind.
So, today, I know how these young Cheechakos feel. A city is just streets and buildings before it can become a community.
If you are active in sports, a city becomes a series of arenas and homes of other players before the rest of it comes into focus.
Turning to the arts gives these young people, and all Cheechakos, the added benefit of starting to understand the character of the Yukon right away.
If you are an artist or you are volunteering within the arts, you will be working with artists … and you will be socializing with artists.
And what do these artists do? They create compelling and informative images that help society understand itself (please excuse the inadequate definition but, really, nobody can agree on a definition of “art” yet, so …).
Who would be better to chat with than someone who looks so closely at the world, from within the Yukon, to help you develop an understanding of a place?
The arts is in a perpetual struggle for funding and a paying audience, so volunteers and new members are always valued highly.
If you bring a set of values from another community, you will be welcomed even more if you are willing to share your thoughts.
The arts community – artists, musicians and those who are neither – tend to be liberal-minded – but not all of them. It would be just as unfair to assume all hockey players are conservative.
I have seen smiles spread across faces as it is realized that a conservative point of view has entered a conversation. That’s what I like about the arts community: the conversations are always great.
Now, I may not feel this way if artists tended toward those loathed by Harperites, but Yukon artists and musicians do not put on airs. I only know one who wears a beret, and most have more callouses on their hands than I do.
At this time of year, we count our blessings. One that I give thanks for, now, is being welcomed as a non-artist member of the arts community. I have the best and most-interesting friends that I could ever have hoped for.
This community could be yours, too. All you have to do is volunteer: sit on a board, answer the call for security positions or help sew costumes. Agree to sit at the box office, just once, and I guarantee that you will meet 100 really nice people.
The arts is an exiting place where interesting people are pursuing compelling projects. You can become one of them so easily in the Yukon.