About Us

Our organization was founded by the owners of Sundog Retreat Centre, 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, the mission of the organization has not changed. We remain committed to providing opportunities for young people to channel their energy to artistic expression, and business development. The programs are not restricted to Yukon First Nation students; yet, the carving instructors are primarily from Northwest Coast and Athabaskan traditions. Current and past participants have been invited to represent the Yukon in other countries and are in demand to offer their services as artists, cultural ambassadors and artistic instructors.

Powerful changes have taken place as the 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.

Past Carving Projects

The Carving Our Path project ran 44 weeks and supported nine young people (under 30) as they began to carve and sell their work. We have run other variations of this program since 2004. This project was funded by ServiceCanada. Each intake of youth 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 have participated in our nine one-week carving training sessions through our organization in Whitehorse Yukon, and attended the downtown studio for the remainder of the year showed great progress in the 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.

‘The Journey Far Project’ supported more experienced carvers of all ages. It started in October 2006 and was designed to provide 2.5 years of support to the carvers. This project is funded by Yukon Justice. It had a similar in structure to the, ‘Carving Our Path program’, with a greater emphasis on advanced carving skills development. Both programs focused on a mix of carving skill development, business and marketing skill development, and life skills/work skills development in order to facilitate successful careers as artists.

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

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. They encourage students to build on their talents early, and stay engaged in school. Through this project, students from six schools attend the studio and are taught by more experienced carving participants. 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 style canoe. This program took place on Yukon First Nation traditional territory and was generously supported by Kwanlin Dun First Nation, and a number of other Yukon agencies. Following the completion of the canoe, set sail for its initial voyage on the Yukon River. Several Yukoners were fortunate to witness this proud moment for these young First Nations men and women. The canoe has been displayed in the past at the Canada Games Centre, however, it will be permanently fixed in the Kwanlin Dun cultural centre on the Yukon River water front.

Artwork

Over the past number of years, the young 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 and sales, and in stores and galleries in Yukon, Alaska and Vancouver.

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

Emerging Opportunities…Our Goals

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