Recently I have been working with a group called Yukon Cultures Connect. They are working on issues of multiculturalism and diversity in the Territory through art and innovative events. You can learn more about them in this article I put together for What’s Up Yukon: Connecting Cultures. Last Friday they had their official launch event which they called The Mixer.
The idea was to explore the concept of home – as people’s homes often represent themselves and their backgrounds. To do this I got to create a really big art installation – essentially I got tasked with turning the Yukon College cafeteria into a giant house, so we could throw a giant house party within it.
As it turns out many of the college’s departments have furniture (couches and chairs) that they were willing to let us borrow free of charge. I was able to rent a bed from a company in town (one of the best design decisions I made – the kids attending the event loved it and were bouncing on it all night long – maybe don’t tell the rental company that part). We used black pipe and drape to define rooms; household lamps and Christmas lights to change the lighting; a whole collection of aprons defined the bounds of the kitchen; and rugs taped to the floor to remove the institutional feel. We even built a giant circus-style tent for the kids in our “backyard” which was defined by clotheslines with sheets hanging off of them and a window which we had washable crayons and markers (oh how I love Crayola) to draw on (the window became one of the best features of the entire installation as the night wore on).
We decorated the living room walls with self-portraits created by the Porter Creek Secondary School‘s art students. Myself and an amazing theatre artist, Hazel Venzon, conducting workshops with the students ahead of the event to get them inspired to create the artwork. Hazel was also the mastermind behind the event’s food. She organized a fusion sandwich contest. Many of Whitehorse’s ethnic restaurants provided sandwich filling which guests could then fuse into their own sandwich creation. After everyone was well-fed, five volunteers created sandwiches to be judged with the winning sandwich to be featured at Burnt Toast for the next month (I believe the winning creation included jerk chicken, Newfoundland salt beef, vegetarian samosa filling, and ketchup).
In the house’s den we had photography from inside various houses in the community projected onto the walls (taken by none other then my amazing and talented husband Tyler Kuhn). The photography side of the project was amazing – in a couple of weeks we visited 10 houses where Tyler photographed all the beautiful and amazing tiny details that made the houses unique and I heard stories (usually over tea and cookies) about those details (everything from Japanese superhero cookie cutters, to hand painted tiles brought back from Mexico, to grandfather clocks that had been in the families for four generations). The work really inspired us and got us thinking that creating a whole show of photographs, video and written stories that expand on this work would be an amazing project.
Yukon Cultures Connect has a steering committee made up of most of the cultural organizations in the Territory. These groups stepped forward in a big way to make the event a success. Over the course of the evening participants could fold origami, get henna tattoos, try out Iranian dancing, join a Fracophone kitchen party, listen to Filipino musicians, paint flags, or dance the night away to a DJ. It was pretty amazing.
And it drew out the crowds…..over 200 adults and close to 100 children! I guess it’s safe to say that our first art installation house party was a success.