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If at first you don’t succeed, apply and apply again.

Though unsuccessful on its first go, the Yellowknife Arts Co-operative (YAC) is reapplying for the VPR catalyst grant – a quarterly sum through the University of Calgary designed to support early-stage research activities.

If successful, YAC would first put the $15,000 seed grant towards hiring an NWT resident to conduct research on existing arts programming and how to better support the territorial arts community. The next step would be to seek greater capital to act on the findings.

Spearheaded by Old Town Glass and Bike Works owner Matthew Grogono, the co-operative is dedicated to better supporting Yellowknife artists and expanding the Yellowknife arts community.

“There is a need, and a want for this,” Grogono said.

Though the collective was not able to secure the funding on its application in March, its since regrouped, met with the selection committee for feedback, and taken steps to improve the proposal for round two.

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YAC has partnered with University of Calgary professor Jennifer Leason and research associate Erin Davies to support the application and establish what’s feasible.

Related coverage: Yk arts group wants to examine gap in artists needs

Davies wouldn’t reveal details of the updated application, but said the team is narrowing its objectives and collaborating with other Northern arts groups, like the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, who could be a model for the collective moving forward.

Grogono said a learning centre for artists would be the long-term goal – though what that would look like is yet to be determined.

Terry Pamplin, a longtime Yellowknife artist and arts advocate, has been working with the co-operative as a consultant.

If it could come to fruition, he said a Yellowknife arts institute would be great. He’s skeptical, however, that this attempt will prove much different from previous tries.

He said the grant money is a good start, but support would have to come from the government to make the project sustainable.

“Artists have been trying for 40 years to convince them that we do need this kind of support,” Pamplin said, referring to policymakers with the capacity to allocate funding and infrastructure to the arts.

“They say, ‘Yeah, we’ll dedicate our resources to the initiatives,’ and they so far haven’t listened to artists.”

What could be different this time, he said, is the collaboration with Leason and Davies.

Since artists have not been able to convince decisionmakers to provide further arts supports, this is an opportunity for other knowledgeable people in this field to meet with MLAs, school boards, curriculum development staff and other officials.

Pamplin recalls appearing before a committee, clad in suit in tie, and telling the officials in front of him that he hopes since he’s dressed like a lawyer they might listen to him.

“Everyone laughed, and ‘Oh, isn’t that cute,’ but that’s my sense,” he said.

While Yellowknife is a city considered to have a high number of creatives per capita, Pamplin said we’re not equipping young artists with the opportunities they need to seek training.

Yellowknife artists may have talent and desire, but to get into art schools they need a portfolio too.

“We certainly have the artists and the people willing to be involved in teaching and programming,” he said. “Art is one of the few renewable resources of the North.”

The VPR catalyst grant deadline is May 14. The co-operative expects to hear back within the next four to six weeks.

Natalie Pressman

Reporting courts and cops and general news, Natalie started with NNSL Media in 2020. Before moving to Yellowknife, Natalie worked as a community radio trainer in Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent First...

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