As the City of Yellowknife asks residents to weigh in on a community arts strategy, Yellownkifer asked local creatives for their wishlists.

“If there is room and capacity in terms of space and funding to build an all-new recreation facility, I’m sure we can create that same dynamic to create a space for a more tailored arts inclusive building,” said Jamie Wetrade-Stevenson, a Tłı̨chǫ artist.

“My concern is that we, as a city, really don’t seem to have a true art gallery,” said Natalie Makletzoff of the Natalie Makletzoff Art Studio.

“I think that it’s important that there be some kind of a commitment from the city, certainly to support the arts to, at least, the same extent as sports, and they have not done that,” said Robert Wilson, who’s been a Northwest Territories-based photographer for three decades.

According to the city, the master plan, announced on Feb. 17, is meant to ‘identify priorities, provide direction, and anticipate challenges ahead’ for the arts and culture scene in the City.

Among the comments received by the Yellowknifer, the main area of focus for many is the need for an actual arts facility in the City.

“You just have to look around and there’s empty space everywhere,” said Wilson. “All of the malls have space. So you would not necessarily have to build something, it could just be a rented kind of a situation, and would help to revitalize the downtown.”

“I really think a space that artists can utilize to put on shows, because a lot of artists were doing them out of their home, or you rent out a space,” said Alida Ryan, a newer artist in the territory. “So to have a city area with gallery walls that you could just rotate artists would be super beneficial.”

“As an Indigenous artist in the north, I consider it to be important to be inclusive to everyone,” Wetrade-Stevenson said. “I think some of the most important factors are to create a safe space for everyone to feel as if they can belong to an arts community which the north is 100 per cent lacking right now.”

Creating more opportunities for arts-based education should be a key component

“I don’t see a central location for arts education (or) inexpensive studio spaces for artists to be able to create art,” said Makletzoff. “In order for the Arts to become truly viable we need to hold education workshops, perhaps utilizing gifted artists in the community to offer mini courses.”

Specifically for Wetrade-Stevenson, her issues went beyond what she wanted from the plan as she had grievances with the survey itself.

“As someone who is from a smaller community, especially if it has to be involved with traditional and cultural practices, out of respect, it’s important to include opinions of everyone, but especially our elders who have been practicing the arts in their everyday lives before there was any support,” she said. “How do we make sure that they are feeling supported in their practices and everyone included?”

“Questions and answers were way too word-heavy, which can be extremely difficult for most people to answer and therefore will end up in less survey engagement,” she continued. “There are too many steps to even access it, and then to even take the survey you need to sign up for an account…”

“Why do I have to sign up to access the survey? And it doesn’t give me the option to bypass the login or at the very least, a guest option.”

The deadline for submissions to the Arts and Culture Master Plan survey is March 7.

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