Crafts Become Art at the KIAC Christmas Fair

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas— with a twist, that is. The Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) in Dawson City is getting ready for its annual arts and crafts fair, but don’t expect the regular baked goods and trinkets.

“The original idea was to have a craft fair that was different from the others,” says Karen Dubois, executive director of KIAC. “We wanted a different focus.”

With the first Fair held in 2000, that focus became offering a venue where artists could sell their work.

“The only criteria,” says Dubois, “is that the item must be handmade— customers come looking for that.”

But what about those baked goods that are synonymous with Christmas fairs? Well, as long as art is incorporated, goodies might be accepted. Dubois recalls a story about a couple of locals who, one year, wanted to sell homemade chips. “We didn’t consider this handmade art,” she says. The would-be vendors then designed, manufactured and hand-painted paper bags to hold the chips. “Then it was art,” chuckles Dubois.

Dubois points out that a customer can still find baked goods— along with Dan’s Home-made Chili and Byron’s Famous Borscht— at the fair’s concession. All food profits will go towards the ODD Gallery, the art gallery run by KIAC.

There are a maximum of twenty tables available to artists at $25 per table. Most years, at least fifteen are rented, says Dubois. Ten are already booked for this year.

It’s a very labour-intensive time for the artists getting ready. Since all products must be hand-made, production takes time. Dubois tells of one artist who spent five hours crafting just one earring.

There will also be live music at the event. Evan Rensch, gallery director, is in the process of finding local musicians who would like to play while people shop.

Not only are there many local participating artists, the gift wrapping table will be a fund-raiser for the Robert Service School Grade 10 class. There will also be a kids’ table, run by volunteers, where children can make crafts while their parents browse the art.

The twist this year, however, is that in the evening after the fair, KIAC has decided to host a dance party. This is also a fundraiser for the gallery and something new for KIAC. The ODD Gallery committee is hoping to attract the fair shoppers to come back in the evening for the Electric Circus Dance Party. With this added event, Rensch says the days spent organizing are busier than in previous years.

“It’ll be worth it,” says Rensch.

The KIAC Christmas Arts & Crafts Fair will take place Nov. 24 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the ballroom of the Oddfellows Hall, located in Dawson City at 902 Second Avenue. The Electric Circus Dance Party will be held in the ODD Gallery starting at 8pm.

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