Pilot project brings art school elements to Yellowknife

The Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Center is planning an art criticism program next month to help local artists develop their practice.

The group, also known as YK ARCC, is performing a pilot version of its art review program “Tough Love” for two nights on February 16 and 17.

“It’s kind of like we’re trying to create a folk art school,” Sarah Swan, senior director of YK ARCC, told Cabin Radio.


Swan said the program is currently at capacity with a total of 12 photographers, painters, cartoonists and a tattoo artist planning to attend. Interested participants were invited to submit samples of their work with candidates chosen on a first-come, first-served basis.

Swan said YK ARCC was aware of a gap in higher education opportunities for artists in the territory.

Sarah Swan, with the YK ARCC, is preparing the gallery for visitors to Peace River Flats in May 2020.
Sarah Swan, with the YK ARCC, prepares the gallery for visitors to Peace River Flats in May 2020. Photo: Sarah Pruys

“It’s really heartbreaking for us at YK ARCC that there’s not really any attention or idea of ​​the importance of art at a government level, really,” she said, “and so we sort of took it in hand.

“Perhaps in the future we could seek partnerships for an accredited program. But I don’t want to waste any more time. Let’s just start a basic program and offer it to artists so they can grow and see where it takes us.


Swan said that while there are many skill-based workshops, “there is nothing to help artists develop and expand the content of their work.”

“There are a lot of people in our organization who went to art school and really benefited from that experience,” Swan said. “We would like to offer this experience to artists in Yellowknife.

“Cheerleading is really fun, but you really can’t grow”

The sessions will reflect an art school critique where participants must show their work without explaining it.

“It gives everyone a chance to let the artwork speak for itself, and then we learn to give constructive feedback,” Swan said.

“How does art communicate? What does it say? And we have a discussion about some possible strengths and weaknesses and areas for growth.

Swan said she recognizes the process can be both affirming and scary.

“That experience is actually very exhausting at times because you feel very, very vulnerable when you’re showing your work to an audience in the first place,” she said.

“We really hope that we can create a very favorable and safe space for dialogue around the works of the participants. You really can’t grow as an artist when all you get is accolades. Cheerleading is really cool, but you really can’t grow.

Swan said these first two review nights are “an experiment” the band hopes to use to gauge interest in future programming.

“We discussed the possibility and the great importance of perhaps bringing in artists and community leaders from elsewhere in the territory,” Swan said.

“This is just our first try to see what we can learn from this experience and how we can continue.”


Kayleen C. Rice