Celebrating the First Yukon Prize!

Can it really be three weeks since the inaugural Yukon Prize for Visual Arts was awarded?  It was a whirlwind and we’re finally catching our breath!

Pivot has been the word of the hour during the COVID pandemic, and pivot we did when the Yukon government declared a state of emergency in November and brought new COVID measures into effect a week ahead of the November 20th Yukon Prize gala awards ceremony.  First, the planned six-course dinner with a menu based on each finalists’ work had to be cancelled, but it seemed the gala itself could proceed.  Then, the Yukon Arts Centre’s COVID capacity was reduced from 90 people to 25.  With jurors, finalists, performers, stage crew and technicians, there wasn’t space for anyone else to attend.  Fortunately, the ceremony could be live-streamed… all arranged at the last minute, of course.  It was a communications flurry, with notifications to ticket holders, refunds and such.

We also pivoted the other events of the awards week: an artist talk with each of the artists, and two panel discussions with the jurors and a small group of art collectors.  Thank goodness for online technology platforms!  Some visitors cancelled planned trips to the Yukon but fortunately all three of our wonderful jurors flew in, from New Mexico, Toronto and Calgary – essential as they were selecting the 2021 Yukon Prize recipient from the exhibition of the finalists’ works.  We had a day-tour planned for the jurors on Sunday after the awards ceremony so they could see a little of the Yukon outside Whitehorse and visit some artists’ studios, but that had to be trimmed back to meet COVID restrictions.  We successfully rounded up winter boots for all the jurors and, despite a chilly day, had a lovely hike at Wolf Creek campground to a Yukon River viewpoint and visits to some Whitehorse-based artists’ studios.

Those were some of the last-minute challenges of organizing the first ever Yukon Prize, but we did it!  Thanks and congratulations to everyone involved: artists, finalists, jurors, planners and organizers, Yukon Arts Centre staff, supporters, donors and our partners – the Yukon government, Yukon Arts Centre and Yukon Arts Foundation.  And of course, congratulations to all the finalists and to the first recipient of the $20,000 Yukon Prize, Joseph Tisiga.

We are so pleased with the media coverage the prize has received, which is helping to put the prize – and Yukon artists – on the cultural map.  In addition to local Yukon media, the CBC and the Globe and Mail provided national coverage following the award ceremony.  More recently, the prize – and Joseph as the winner — is featured with other national art prizes in the Art Canada Institute’s December newsletter.  Links to this and other media reports can be found on the Yukon Prize website Media page.

Not surprisingly, we’re now doing some debriefing of how things went this first time around to see if there are ways to improve our processes for the next Yukon Prize, two years away.  Were the eligibility criteria clear enough for both artists and jurors?  Could the application process be improved?  Were the additional events besides the award ceremony interesting and helpful?  Did you enjoy the livestream and do you have any suggestions for future live streaming of the gala?  We invite any comments and critiques you would like to offer.  Please email info@yukonprize.ca

As 2021 draws to a close, we wish you all the best holiday season.  Thanks everyone for your interest and support in this, our inaugural year!

Julie and David