Exhibition magnificent in its colour, symbolism
The 65-panel mural that hangs at Yukon College’s main reception area bears resemblance to the territory itself:
Photo by Vince Fedoroff
A WATERSHED MOMENT – The Yukon College community mural project was unveiled early Wednesday afternoon. Shown left to right, shortly after the big moment, are college president Karen Barnes, artist Nicole Bauberger, Tourism and Culture Minister Mike Nixon, college chancellor Geraldine Van Bibber and Paul Flaherty, chair of the collegesʼ board of governors.
The 65-panel mural that hangs at Yukon College’s main reception area bears resemblance to the territory itself: both represent colourful, partly improvised mosaics born of a vision and rush of energy by the young and ambitious.
Nicole Bauberger — in effect, the George Carmack of the project — led a group of more than 100 students and community members over the past six months to create I Dreamed I Was Home.
Unveiled Wednesday, the exhibition was a continuation of the college’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Though she steered the effort, Bauberger insists the collaborative mural project “belonged to the participants from the design forward.”
She held brainstorming sessions with students at the college and Porter Creek Secondary School last September.
The artist emerged with a central idea inspired in part by Angela Sidney, a well-known Yukon story-teller of Tagish and Tlingit descent.
The title and theme for I Dreamed I Was Home comes from a traditional Tlingit song associated with the story of Kaax’achgook, sung by Sidney when she bestowed the name Ayamdigut on the college’s Whitehorse campus at its official opening in October 1988.
“I’d heard of Mrs. Angela Sydney before, back in Peterborough (Ont.), so I was really quite excited to be looking at her,” Bauberger said in an interview.
“The theme both had space in it for First Nations cultural input ... but also there was room in it for people who come and find their home here in the Yukon from all over the world, including all over Canada.”
College students, staff and community members began by painting acrylic swaths of green and white on the mural’s squares, “then tied things together in a little more detail.”
The 16-square-inch panels depict scenes spanning the territory’s history and landscape, with ice fishers and moose painted cheek by jowl with mountain peaks and northern lights.
Incorporating “a sun and moon element,” the mural also includes the words “dream” and “my home” painted in the eight First Nations languages spoken across the territory.
A panel will be shipped to each of the college’s 13 satellite campuses. That means the mural will soon stretch from Old Crow to Watson Lake to the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
“It’s been a wonderful experience I’ve learned a lot from,” Bauberger said.
“There is a point where it becomes all-consuming.”
Ida Calmegane, Sydney’s daughter, was present for the unveiling, having given her blessing for weaving her mother’s work into the exhibit.
“She came out and told the story of Kaax’achgook and sang that song for us, so that’s something I really appreciated and was honoured by,” Bauberger said.
Also on hand for the event were Ruth Massie, the Council of Yukon First Nations’ grand chief, Tourism and Culture Minister Mike Nixon, Yukon College chancellor Geraldine Van Bibber, college president Karen Barnes and Josh Regnier, the college’s student engagement co-ordinator.
Raised in Peterborough and a self-employed artist since 1999, Bauberger has seen her work displayed at exhibits in B.C., Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Quebec and Ontario, as well as in Whitehorse.