The Yukon Prize for Visual Arts may have only been launched last summer, but it looks as though it is set to become an annual fixture of the Yukon’s arts and culture scene. The Yukon PrizeThe Yukon Prize was created with three main goals in mind: to provide a significant monetary amount to one Yukon artist to help them focus full-time on creating art, to promote Yukon artists and their art locally, nationally and internationally, and to foster discourse within the Yukon to push artists to their full potential.
This year, the six finalists for the prize of $20,000 are Ken Anderson (Khàtinas.àxh), a member of the Teslin Tlingit Council; Amy Ball of Dawson City; Sho Sho “Belelige” Esquiro, a member of the Ross River Dena Council; Krystle Silverfox, a citizen of the Selkirk First Nation from New Westminster, B.C.; Joseph Tisiga, a member of the Kaska Dena Nation from Montreal and Veronica Verkley of Dawson City. The five runners-up will receive $2,000 each.
Ken Anderson (Khàtinas.àxh) was born and raised in the Yukon and is of Tlingit and Scandinavian ancestry. Tlingit family and traditions are the foundation of the art he practices. His training and inspiration comes largely through informal self-study. Anderson works with wood, metal, stone and snow.
Amy Ball is a visual artist born in Dawson City in 1987. After studying in Germany and Montreal, she returned to Dawson City in 2018, where she works in a variety of mediums, including performance, installation, text, print-making and film-making.
Sho Sho “Belelige” Esquiro grew up in the Yukon. She is of Kaska Dena, Cree and Scottish heritage. Raised by an artist mother, she learned to sew at a young age, and now applies traditional methods to contemporary arts, creating textiles that have been displayed in museums across North America.
Krystle Silverfox’s artistic practice explores different materials, methodologies, and symbols to create conceptual works. Silverfox is passionate about Indigenous feminism, trans-nationalism, de-colonialism, and social justice, and these themes shape a practice that includes painting, photography, sculpture, installation, and new media.
Joseph Tisiga maintains a multidisciplinary practice that is rooted in painting and drawing. His practice includes performance, photography, sculpture and installation, and his work reflects upon notions of identity and what contributes to this construct. Themes in Tisiga’s art such as community, nationality, family, history, location, real and imagined memories are becoming more and more relevant in the current climate. Tisiga’s works explore cultural and social inheritance, as well as the mundane, the metaphysical and the mythological, often all at once.
Veronica Verkley is a sculptor and media artist based near Dawson City, on the traditional territory of the Trondëk Hwëchin. Verkley’s work shifts between installation, animation and kinetics, and could be described as ethereal and organic. Along with her artistic practice, Veronica has collaborated extensively in film, theatre and dance, focusing mainly on puppeteering and animatronics.
These six finalists were chosen from an applicant pool of 107 artists in an open competition that closed on March 31. The selections were made by a jury of highly respected arts professionals from across North America, consisting of Ryan Doherty, Chief Curator of Contemporary Calgary; Candice Hopkins, an independent curator, writer and researcher who is a citizen of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Gaëtane Verna, Director of The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto.
“As someone born in the Yukon, it was impressive to see the breadth of practices in the territory, ranging from fashion to photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, beadwork, graphic novels, carving, and everything in between,” said Hopkins. “The unique visions of Yukon artists stood out to me, visions that often reflected on the land itself, its deep traditions and ecologies. It was incredibly difficult to choose the six finalists from so many worthy applications and I am grateful to all who took the time to share their work with the jury.”
A curated group exhibition featuring the work of all six finalists will open on September 18, and the first-place winner will be announced at a special gala event planned for the weekend of November 19-21 in Whitehorse. While one artist will take home this year’s prize, all six finalists and all 107 applicants are being celebrated, as is the Yukon’s arts and culture scene in general.
“I hope everyone will take the time to see and learn about the outstanding work of these six exceptional artists,” said Julie Jai, who co-founded the Yukon Prize Committee along with David Trick. “A special thank you to all 107 artists who have applied to the Yukon Prize. Collectively they demonstrate the breadth of talent in the Yukon and Yukon’s wonderful ability to develop and attract talented and creative people.”
The Yukon Prize comes from a partnership between Jai and Trick, with the Yukon Arts Foundation, the Yukon Arts Centre and a team of volunteers. Eleven people currently make up the committee, meaning it is a small yet fiercely dedicated team behind this initiative.
To learn more about the Yukon Prize for Visual Arts, visit https://yukonprize.ca/.