The owners of Sundog Retreat Centre founded our organization; however, over time the programming expanded into a dynamic, non-profit organization called the Northern Cultural Expressions Society. Although our organization has undergone name changes, our mission has not changed. We remain committed to providing opportunities for young people. Encouraging them to channel their energy to artistic expression, and business development. Current and past participants have been invited to represent the Yukon Territory in other countries and are in demand to offer their services as artists, cultural ambassadors and artistic instructors.

Powerful changes have taken place as young artists use their new carving skills to move out of a cycle of physical abuse, emotional neglect, justice system involvement, substance abuse and multi-generational effects of residential school. Many participants have not experienced success in a traditional classroom or workplace, but demonstrate noticeable improvements in their outlook and self-esteem with our programming.

Past Carving Projects

The first Carving Our Path project ran 44 weeks, supporting nine young people (under 30) as they began carving and selling their work. Other variations of this program have taken place since 2004. Each intake allowed for nine participants aged 16-30 to learn carving skills, life skills and business planning/marketing skills. The program is life changing; youth who have largely experienced failure in traditional school or work opportunities blossom under the individualized attention and their tangible artistic successes. Youth receive a weekly stipend (30 hours at minimum wage) to supplement their initial self-employment income.

The youth who participated in the carving training sessions, and attended the downtown studio for the remainder of the year, showed great development of both traditional and life skills. Youth selected for the program are referred from First Nation Employment and Training Officers and from local employment service agencies, in collaboration with other youth-serving agencies.

* Funded through Service Canada *

The Journey Far Project started in October 2006, designed to support more experienced carvers for 2.5 years. Similar in structure to the Carving Our Path program, allowing greater emphasis on advanced carving skills development. Both programs focus on developing carving, business, marketing, and life/work skills in order to assist successful careers as artists.

These programs also encouraged the artists to contribute to the wider community through various outreach initiatives.

* Yukon Justice funds this project *

The First Nations Art Education project is currently an opportunity for emerging artists to be hired as instructors to help Yukon First Nation students in the public school system. Encouraging students to build on their talents early, and stay engaged in school. Through this project, the advanced carving students teach beginner students. This is an exciting way to pass along skills. The outcome of this program is an increased confidence for both the instructors, and the younger students.

This project began in October 2007 and is funded by First Nation Programs and Partnerships, Yukon Department of Education.

The Canoe Project involved a number of young males & females who participated in a ten-week, substance-free intensive carving program. Together, they carved a stunning traditional dugout style canoe. This program took place on Yukon First Nation traditional territory and was generously supported by Kwanlin Dun First Nation, along with a number of other Yukon agencies. Following completion, the canoe set sail for its voyage on the Yukon River. Many Yukoners were fortunate to witness this proud moment for these First Nations men and women. The canoe has been displayed at the Canada Games Centre; however, it is permanently fixed in the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre on the Yukon River waterfront.

ARTWORK

Over the years, the artists have been increasing their fine arts skills and range of artwork (masks, prints, panels, plaques, rattles, paddles, bowls, among other items). The carvers’ art has been sold locally, nationally and internationally. Beginner pieces sell in the $25-125 range, and advanced carvers sell their work for $1,000 – $5,000 depending on size and complexity of the piece.

The participants have been featured in four gallery shows at Arts Underground in Whitehorse. Individual participants have also participated in a variety of other shows, sales, in stores and in galleries around the Yukon, Alaska and Vancouver areas.

All art sales through our organization are conducted directly for our artists. Visa/MasterCard payments accepted by the gallery, and passed in full to the artist (less the credit card charges).

EMERGING OPPORTUNITIES.. OUR GOALS

  • Increase development of the Yukon First Nation arts and culture sector.
  • A more dynamic Yukon First Nation presence on the local and national arts scene.
  • A cultural exchange with Maori carvers in New Zealand.
  • A Whitehorse-based series of carvings to enhance tourism experiences for visitors.
  • To enhance the Yukon First Nation educational opportunities for public school students
  • To further the positive role modeling and cultural opportunities for Yukon First Nation youth