“Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover” is Ynklude’s exhibit at the Yukon Arts Centre’s Youth Grotto that contains stories, beautifully told.

Gallery intern Jessica Vellenga stands in the youth grotto at the Yukon Arts Centre, flipping through a handmade accordion-style book.
“She’s talking about Vancouver and the smell of the sea, so we put in sea salt,” she says as she flips to a page with a small cutout revealing a handful of off-white sea salts trapped between the papers.

“Then she was talking about the residences. She said the residences had these really specific types of bedspreads, so we found something that would mimic the texture.”

Another page in the book has corduroy fabric cut into tiny rectangular shapes. Placed side-by-side, they create an image of beds together in a room. It’s all part of Cheri Wilson’s art book titled, Something Was Hard For Me At School, which tells her story of attending a school for the blind.

Wilson, along with over a dozen other members of Ynklude, created a series of art books telling personal and simplistically profound stories about their lives. And the books are on display in an exhibit appropriately called, Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover.

Ynklude is an art collective borne out of the Yukon Association for Community Living (YACL). With the help of Vellenga and local artist Joyce Majiski, the collective of women with and without intellectual disabilities took on a project last December.

Together in Majiski’s studio, Vellenga says they created for five solid days.

“It was really intense and it was really fantastic to see the women and their creative forces and their energies. They filled up the studio with laughter and it was fun,” she says.

“It was really a pleasant experience, they’re just so vibrant and so creative and they have so many ways of expressing themselves.”

From creating mock-ups, to painting and sandwiching the paper with a rainbow of colours, the women took their own stories and brought them to life with found objects, photographs, drawings and anything else around the studio.

“If you go through the books, there’s tactile parts; there’s things that move; there’s of course the poems themselves and pictures of the women,” Vellenga explains, gesturing to the nearly 20 books that line the youth grotto.

“The books are just such a wonderful sensory experience.”

Rachel Dawson’s personal publication is titled, I Was Dancing. It tells a story of her friends, her feelings and what it all means to her.Dawson writes, “It does help to have friends in life,” which is accompanied by photographs of the Ynklude group beaming from ear-to-ear.

In a press release, YACL coordinator Julie Robinson says, “creating these books has been a wonderful community collaboration chock-full of learning and fun. It has been an opportunity for women with and without disabilities to come together in the spirit of making art.”

Previous workshops with local playwright, Patti Flather, led the women to pen these stories and Vellenga says adding visuals was the next step.

“It’s above and beyond what I thought would happen. You sort of go into these things open and knowing you’re going to create something,” she says, glancing around the space.

“And then to look at it, it just turned out so beautiful. They’re so inspiring and heartwarming. I’m just amazed at the stories and the emotion that comes out of these books.”

Ynklude’s exhibit, Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover, will be on display in the youth grotto at the Yukon Arts Centre until Feb. 15.