What defines a Yukon artist?
I don’t know.
I currently live in the Yukon, and I consider myself an artist... so... am I therefore a Yukon artist? What if I had just moved to the Yukon a month ago from another city, let’s say Calgary, where I was working as an artist, and I plan on making the Yukon my home. Am I a Calgary artist? Or am I now a Yukon artist because I plan to stay? Do I need to contribute a certain amount to the artistic community before I am considered a local artist? When does this shift occur?
This train of thought caused me to observe the theatre community here in Whitehorse and the local artists who comprise it. It seems like I can assume that most of us consider ourselves to be Yukon artists, yet how many of us are from here? I think it would be fair to say that most of us come from somewhere else. Quite often when you ask a local if they are from here they will respond along these lines: “I’m not from here, but this is home,” or “I’m from Calgary originally but I’ve been here for 27 years,” or “I grew up here but I left for a long time and now I’m back.”
I turn to one of our local funding sources to see what they say, and I found an answer. In order to apply for an Advanced Artist Award it states that you must have lived in the Yukon for one continuous year prior to the deadline in order to apply. Is one year my answer? Is that how long you should be contributing to the community before reaping the rewards of its funding?
It seems fairly ridiculous to have a cut and dry answer to any of these questions because I don’t think the definition of a Yukon artist is something that we can't decide intellectually. Does that mean it’s a feeling? We can sense inside when that shift has happened? This intrigues me because at some point a new place will become home... but it’s not a definite moment. It’s almost like an accumulation of moments that add up to this new sensation. It’s like becoming an adult. When did that happen?
We have been reading some of Robert Services words to spark our improvisations and also to connect us to our location of creation – the Yukon. I find it interesting that Robert Service became one of the most famous Yukon writers and yet he was born in England and travelled to the north of his own accord. He arrived in Whitehorse and began performing his words at church concerts and used his experiences in the north to fuel his most famous poems. Is he a Yukon artist? My first response is, “Of course he is!’ but when did that shift occur for him? Was it when he got a job at the bank? Or was it when he went to Vancouver to marry his wife and bring her back to the Yukon? Or was it when he moved to Dawson City and became a full time author?
I don’t know.
- Jessica Hickman