It’s not too often that you get to walk up to an artist in creative process and say, “Excuse me, what are you working on?”

The Yukon Riverside Arts Festival, which takes place from August 17th to 20th in Dawson City as part of the Discovery Days Festival, allows you to do just that, and in the most idyllic of settings – right alongside the Yukon River, nestled in the valley of the historic gold rush town.

The annual three day event, which is produced by the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC), takes the small-but-thriving artistic community by storm with exhibitions, artist workshops and demonstrations, lectures, public art events, live music and an art market happening in venues throughout Dawson.

“It’s an opportunity to see what’s going on artistically in the territory,” says Festival Producer Matthew Sarty, who has been overseeing the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival for six years.

This year, KIAC has worked to keep the creative festival as central as possible, with the majority of the events taking place at the open-air Riverside Park and Gazebo right off Front Street.

“There is lots going on during Discovery weekend and we want to make it easy to be part of festival,” Sarty says.

You can find most visual artists set up riverside, working under tents-turned-studios for the weekend. The idea of the festival is to give the public an opportunity to talk to and work with local artists in an interactive and collaborative way.

From weaving, to painting, to sculpture, and everything in between, there’s a wide range of artistic flavours to choose from.

“To hang out with so many Yukon visual artists in one place and to have access to multidisciplinary artists in this way is rare. It’s the accessible and collaborative atmosphere that makes the festival so special.”

To kick off the annual arts affair, there will be a gallery hop on Thursday, August 17th, starting at the School of Visual Arts gallery, where 25 local artists will showcase their artistic efforts.

From there, art appreciators can traipse around town to check out a number of pop up artist exhibitions around Dawson at several local businesses.

The ODD Gallery will also host an opening reception on August 17th for KIAC Artists in Residence Leila Armstrong and Lisa Harmer, who are multimedia artists. Their exhibition, The Natural & The Manufactured 2017: Tall Tales for Short Nights and Warm Planets (curated by Marlaina Buch) will showcase the collaborative work these artists have created over the course of their KIAC residency.

“We see 22 artists over the course of the year, but it’s the only time of year when the residency is expected to result in a show,” Sarty says. “It’s very exciting for the gallery.”

Unlike past festivals, this year KIAC has partnered with other organizations to produce “late night offerings” at the KIAC Ballroom, which include a Dawson City Music Festival concert on Friday, August 18th at 10 p.m., featuring musicians Thom Coombes and Naomi Kavka.

On Saturday, August 19th at 10 p.m., the Yukon Film Society will present the Rendezvous with Madness Film Tour feature, Ken Foster. The film, directed by Josh Laner, explores the life of Vancouver street artist Ken Foster.

Though the Riverside Arts Festival is an all ages event, this portion of the event will be licensed.

Artist demonstrations will run all day on Saturday and Sunday, featuring a variety of multidisciplinary Yukon artists. The festival will feature over 12 artist demonstrations and over 20 artisans who will be selling their wares.

The live music stage, also located riverside between the artist market and the demonstration tent, will feature 20 plus local Dawson acts, including mainly established musicians, but some up-and-coming musicians as well.

“It’s an active and fun atmosphere and you can always expect something to be happening,” Sarty says.