Whitehorse collective welcomes sidewalk audience for live art-making

Members of an art co-operative in Whitehorse are planning to create works before a sidewalk audience — anyone who wants to come by to watch — over the next several weeks.

“It keeps us alive as a gallery, it keeps us thinking about what we’re doing and looking forward, instead of just staying home and feeling miserable,” Virginia Wilson said with a chuckle.

She’s one of the 21 members who make up the Yukon Artists @ Work gallery. The group closed its gallery in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is allowing private viewings for a few people at a time.

Wilson said she came up with the idea of doing a “window event.” On Thursday, the landscape artist started painting a view of downtown Whitehorse based off of a sketch she made last year from the top of the Whitehorse clay cliffs.

Wilson’s “studio” in the gallery’s storefront on Fourth Avenue consists of a space about the size of a small elevator, surrounded by windows on three sides. 

She said about a couple of dozen people stopped to see what she was doing over the three days of her project.

“One young lady actually was here for an hour and a half yesterday,” Wilson said on Saturday. “I kept looking up and she was still there, which meant I couldn’t take any breaks.”

She said she was also amazed at the number of people who walked by without noticing what she was doing. 

Virginia Wilson said about a couple of dozen people stopped to see what she was doing over the three days she painted there. (Steve Silva/CBC)

“They are actually oblivious to the fact that I’m here in the window painting my heart out. They’re looking at their phones.”

Wilson said a different member of the co-operative will create art in the space each week between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Thursday to Saturday. She said the first six weeks are already filled up. 

Wilson said she hopes the feeling she gets from painting wears off on the window-viewers.

“I hope I’ve improved the day of a few of these people because I’m enjoying what I do, and I hope they enjoy it, too.” 

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