A series of demonstrations and hands-on activities is helping animate the current exhibition at the Yukon Arts Centre’s Public Gallery, Found, Forged & Fused, a survey of handmade works from the Yukon Permanent Art Collection.
The idea for this interactive component stems directly from the thinking behind the exhibit’s curation, explains Garnet Muething, art curator for the Tourism department’s arts branch.
“As we continue to grow the Yukon Permanent Collection, I get the opportunity to hear these amazing stories from the artists about when they discovered a particular material and how that discovery changed their practice,” Muething says. “We really wanted to bring some of those stories to the public.”
The International Year of Craft 2015 provided an incentive to do that through an exhibit that focused on an artist’s relationship to their materials. The work speaks to that relationship and spans the permanent collection’s 30-year history up to the most recent set of acquisitions.
The next step in bringing that relationship to life for the public came in the form of words. Words and excerpts from stories the artists had shared with Muething are included on the walls throughout the exhibit space.
To bring the experience full circle for the public Yukon Government’s Arts Branch and the Yukon Arts Centre wanted to provide an opportunity for visitors to truly immerse themselves in the process of creating the work. “You can experience a piece of art on an aesthetic level, and you can appreciate the technical skill that went into its creation, but you get a whole new depth of appreciation and understanding of the work if you have the opportunity to watch it bring created or if you have the opportunity to interact with the materials yourself,” Muething says.
With that in mind a suite of programming has been designed to run throughout the summer to allow the public to engage with materials in a tactile way and with artists who are featured in the exhibit face-to-face. “It’s really exciting for us,” says Jessica Vellenga, the Yukon Arts Centre’s community co-ordinator for visual arts. “It would be a challenge for us to run a painting workshop inside the gallery, but with craft we can have people physically working in the space.”
The programming takes two forms: Artist Demonstrations & Talks and Try & Talks.
The artist demonstrations feature artists creating work in the gallery space. In the last several weeks Lena White and Helen O’Connor have shared their processes with visitors. “The feedback on the demos so far has been fantastic,” says Muething. “Visitors have stumbled upon the artists at work and have ended up so enthralled that they’ve spent their entire afternoons with them.”
The next demo will feature copper artist Brian Walker and Raven’s Tail weaver Ann Smith on August 19 from 3:30-6:30 p.m.
The Try & Talks give visitors the chance to learn some new skills and create a project. Vellenga stresses that these events are open to everyone, including kids. “By letting people explore some of these techniques firsthand we’re creating a new way of bringing the exhibition to life, while celebrating the handcraft movement and our talented northern artists.”
Centre staff will be leading Try & Talks over the next few weeks on Wednesdays from 1:30-2:30 p.m. August 5 will explore doll making, while August 12 will dive into bookbinding.
Found, Forged & Fused continues at the Yukon Arts Centre until August 29.