The iconic Wildcat Cafe is being transformed into a centre for the arts.

The Yellowknife Artists Co-operative signed a contract on July 23 to take over the Wildcat Cafe until the end of September.

“The cafe actually offers us a really great springboard because it has beautiful space,” said Sofia Grogono, coordinator for the centre for the arts. “It has a kitchen, it has table space and it has a lot of deck space.”

She said the group will not need to make many changes and it will preserve the structure as a heritage building. The group will rearrange the tables, wants to add a couch and create space for a dance floor.

“We’re elated,” said Grogono. “We just walked around with theses big goofy grins on our face.”

She said she’s heard from many people who really happy about what is transpiring.

“There’s some beautiful partnerships that are in the works. There’s a lot of generosity, a lot of business, small businesses are stepping up and offering donations and sponsorships,” Grogono said. “The values we’re building on right now are community, connection and co-creation. This is not one board pushing a vision and creating something because it serves our interest. This is a board that is in their service on the community, who’s here, who’s listening.”

Judith Drinnan, owner of Yellowknife Book Cellar, donated $1,000 to the group out of her own pocket.

“I really think it’s time that Yellowknife had an art centre and I applaud volunteerism and starting in a small way and not always depending on money coming from the government,” said Drinnan. “So if I see somebody taking initiative in that way, I know how many times I’ve been supported by small amounts of money, and small amounts of money piled together get bigger amounts of money and things happen. So I applaud further analysis and I want to support.”

Grogono said called the community support “really touching” and “inspiring.”

The group had its first open meeting with invited guests last weekend. This weekend, the YK Artists Co-operative will partner with Ecology North in the Trash-formation Art Contest at the Wildcat Cafe.

“People are going to be able to come and walk through the Wildcat and see it as an art space, as a gallery,” Grogono said.

On Monday nights, the public can pre-register to attend the open meetings, where people can share food with colouring pages while the group discusses concepts about art and community and what people need in the North.

On Friday nights, the arts centre will host open jam sessions with musicians and artists.

Grogono said other activities will include writing circles, drawing classes, a beading workshop, dance events, Kundalini yoga and conversations about “how the Earth breaths.”

When the group submitted its proposal to the City of Yellowknife to use the Wildcat Cafe, Matthew Grogono, Yellowknife Artists Co-operative president, said that seeing the cafe empty “seemed disconcerting — that a historical building like the Wildcat shouldn’t be unoccupied for the course of the summer.”

This arts centre will help the group hear from artists across Yellowknife and the North, Matthew said.

In the future, the organization wants to develop a learning program that would facilitate online programs to reach all NWT communities.

“One important thing is that artists from the Indigenous communities are invited and will take part,” said Roland Laufer, the Yellowknife Artists Co-operative’s treasurer.

He added that the group wants Indigenous artists on its board of directors, “as we want to create and really sustain the multicultural soul of art.”

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