BY GEORGE MARATOS
In August of 1896, three sourdoughs – George Carmack, Dawson Charlie and Skookum Jim – discovered gold in what is now called Bonanza Creek. Soon after came one of the world’s greatest gold-rush stampedes with nearly 100,000 people travelling north to strike it rich in the Klondike gold fields.
Today, that famous gold find is celebrated each year through the week-long Discovery Days Festival in Dawson City.
The event features something for everyone: a golf tournament, writing competition, face panting, can can dancers and plenty more.
One of the most popular events is the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival.
In its ninth year, the festival continues to develop and this year will showcase the work of more than 30 artists.
“I’m pleasantly surprised by the art scene in Dawson City,” explains the festival co-ordinator, Jennifer Rudski. “Northern art tends to be more textiles, art that can be used and can be worn. It makes sense with the climate up here.”
With so many artists, Rudski admits it is hard to pick a favourite.
“I’m looking forward to all of them. We have tons of new artists who are going to have work on display and their work is really quite spectacular.”
One of the most popular aspects of the festival is a gallery hop that sees artists’ work showcased at nine venues around town.
An artist, herself, Rudski is set to do an art project in the Northwest Territories, this fall, she says community involvement and intimacy of the festival is one of its draws.
“It’s smaller and more family oriented, with lots of hands-on events.
“There is even a kids’ tent, which is very popular for young aspiring artists.”
Rudski notes that the striking diversity of the art.
Previous festivals have featured work in acrylic, oil, watercolour painting, bookbinding, willow basketry, beadwork, blacksmithing, caribou hair tufting, stained glass and more.
This year, the reputation for eclectic mixes of art forms continues with interactive studio demonstrations, site-specific installations, film screenings and outdoor musical performances by artists based in the Yukon, the NWT, Alaska and Northern B.C.
That on top of artist talks and workshops geared to artists of all ages.
“Everything is going very smooth and I think everyone attending is going to be amazed by the spectacular artwork by these Northern artists,” Rudski says.
The festival runs throughout the weekend and kicks off Thursday night with an art opening at the ODDGallery.