Klondike Korner: Making the Town an Art Gallery

Dawson City itself becomes the art gallery for the year-end exhibition of work by the students at the KIAC School of Visual Arts (SOVA).

KIAC stands for Klondike Institute of Art and Culture. It is the program arm of the 10-year-old Dawson City Arts Society (DCAS) and is one of the three partners, with Yukon College and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, in the governance structure of SOVA, which celebrates its third year of operation this month.

As DCAS and KIAC operate out of the revived Odd Fellows Hall at the corner of Princess Street and 2nd Avenue, so SOVA operates out of the renovated and improved former territorial administration building and liquor store at the corner of Queen Street and 3rd Avenue.

Over the next year, the building lot beside SOVA will become the permanent home for the Dawson campus of Yukon College, which has been shuffled from building to building over the last two decades and once occupied a portion of the second floor of the SOVA building. The two schools will be joined as one structure.

For its final exhibit of the year, the class used the SOVA Gallery on the main floor to show off the range of projects the students had been involved in as part of faculty member Veronica Verkley’s 2-Dimensional and 3-Dimensional Studio courses, including pieces in leather, paintings, collage, flip books, lino cuts, textile work, animations and mechanical constructions.

Graham Everitt’s mechanical winged lizard was particularly tempting and people kept trying to make it move in spite of clear labelling asking them not to.

A flattened muffler and tail pipe assembly, which was then used to make a print of the object, was a reminder of last fall’s Extreme Print Making project.

There was considerably less variety in the exhibit at the ODD Gallery where the fifth Over the Wire project, under the direction of faculty member Charles Stankievech, had paired the students with New York conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner.

Over the Wire is described as “a unique curriculum-based project series that creates an exchange between an established artist and the KIAC School of Visual Arts. Celebrating the extreme remoteness of the school, the project mediates the geographical distance by fostering a correspondence — both literally and aesthetically — between the artist and the students. Each semester, a set of instructions created by a distant artist is delivered to the students in order to produce a new work.”

In 1969, Weiner went on record stating that “his art ‘need not be built’ to exist … and refined his artistic practice into a strategy that confronted the public with concise textual statements painted on gallery walls and printed in paperback books.”

His 1969 project was called A Translation of One Language to Another, and it is that project that SOVA students were challenged to interpret on the walls and ceiling of the ODD Gallery, using isolated phrases paired with a chosen font or typeface and located in a particular portion of the gallery room.

That left lots of space for the wine, cheese, vegetable and fruit plates in the centre of the room.

Scattered about the community between the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre on Front Street and a log home at the other end of town, was a series of 12 works created by the students as part of a joint English/art assignment set by faculty member Jen Laliberte.

Most of these Last Maps of the Heart were situated behind windows in such buildings as the Red Feather Saloon, Westminster Hotel and the Palace Grand Theatre, but there were two behind derelict gas pumps at Klondike Motors and one descriptive map was laminated and attached to the fence in front of the house where one of the class members grew up when her family lived in Dawson.

The roving audience got a taste of these in between the two galleries, but one would need a map (available at the galleries) and an hour or so of daylight walking about to see them all.

All of the exhibits will be on display until May 7.

After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.

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