Whitehorse Daily Star

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INNOVATIVE PROJECTS FUNDED – The 125 Yukon Prize winners are seen during Monday evening’s unveiling ceremony. From left to right are Matthew Lien, Katherine McCallum, John Serjeantson, Tourism and Culture Minister John Streicker, Amy Kenny and Tedd Tucker. Photo by JUSTIN KENNEDY/GOVERNMENT OF YUKON

125 Prize celebrates Yukon’s birthday with innovative projects

Two of the three groups of 125 Prize winners will literally be ascending mountains.

By Whitehorse Star on February 6, 2024

Two of the three groups of 125 Prize winners will literally be ascending mountains.

Veteran Yukon musician Matthew Lien has received $125,000 for his Kluane Compositions concept.

The other two recipients are:

• It’s Weird Up Here, a celebration of small achievements, involving Tedd Tucker and Amy Kenny ($79,305); and

• Yukon Alpine Climbing – First Ascent, involving John Serjeantson ($18,903).

The three prizes were unveiled Monday evening at the Whitehorse Visitor Information Centre.

The 125 Prize recognizes the territory’s 125th birthday, which occurred in 2023.

It’s “a unique, one-time opportunity for Yukoners to achieve something extraordinary, whether an individual pursuit or a collective project,” the Yukon government said in a statement.

A selection committee comprised of community members from across the territory determined the recipients. The projects will take place throughout 2024.

The Kluane Compositions project will see a grand piano helicoptered into Kluane National Park to be featured in the compositions’ 10-minute music video.

The flight will likely take place in July, when weather conditions are generally at their best for alpine excursions by helicopter.

Lien, the project lead, first mused about such a spectacle four decades ago.

As the government describes the project, “Inspired by Kluane landscapes and Indigenous culture, a hybrid, three-movement music composition featuring Southern Tutchone Indigenous, MOR and classical music styles is to be created.”

The project’s team members are high-profile Yukon singer Diyet van Lieshout, Katherine McCallum, Kirsti Wallace and Melvin Lagersson.

“Forty years ago, I had this idea to compose a song about Kluane National Park and airlift a grand piano into the park for a music video,” Lien said.

“I never accomplished the project, but the idea remained and grew over the decades to include Diyet, who profoundly represents the park’s incredible Indigenous culture, and to expand the music into three movements representing the park’s distinct ecosystems.

“It’s unbelievable and yet somehow fateful, to have this opportunity to celebrate the Yukon’s most majestic wilderness with Diyet and together create an epic production,” said Lien.

van Lieshout added, “I relish this idea of Matthew’s and I, to create something new in these beautiful mountains. To me, this is what looking at truth, reconciling that truth and moving forward together looks like.”

The Yukon Alpine Climbing – First Ascent project is also mountain-oriented.

A climbing team will attempt to perform the first ascent of an alpine rock route, Radelet Arete, in southern Yukon.

“If successful, a safe, high-quality alpine rock climb will be established for Yukoners and visitors to enjoy,” the government said.

Serjeantson, the project lead, will be supported by team members Zach Clanton and Rob Cohen.

“We’re hoping to accomplish the first ascent of a route on one of the most striking mountains in southern Yukon, Radelet Peak,” said Serjeantson.

“Ever since moving to the Yukon, the peak has held mythical status for me, with no successful attempt to scale the steep rock around it.

“I can’t wait to see it in person and be engrossed in the unique natural environment,” Serjeantson added.

“As a working professional, the Yukon 125 funding makes a huge difference by giving me the ability to fly into the site.

“This will allow me to save precious time and energy and also to bring in more gear, which makes a successful climb that much more likely.”

It’s Weird Up Here will involve a team doing archival deep-dives, micro-film hunts, museum visits and interviews with seasoned Yukoners.

Stories will be shared that may not have made front-page news, but, in the team’s opinion, should have.

Tucker and Kenny, the project leads, will be assisted by team member Rae Mombourquette.

“Our project is a written and illustrated account of 125 years of undertold Yukon stories, big and small,” Tucker and Kenny said in a statement

“It’s like if John Hughes gave the reins of Weird Science to Tedd Tucker and Amy Kenny, and instead of a teen rom-com, the movie ended up being about two nerds frankensteining a high school yearbook together with comics, PostSecret, and a Pierre Berton anthology.

“Can you imagine traditional publishing avenues funding that pitch?” the pair asked.

“Obviously not! That’s why we’re extra-excited the Yukon 125 Prize did.”

The funding, Tucker and Kenny added, “will allow us to create a book that defies established genre, where we can share some of the stories we’ve been talking to each other about for years.”

The 125 Prize had a two-stage application process. A brief expression of interest form was open until Aug. 4, 2023.

Those selected to proceed to the second application stage process provided a full proposal, including a detailed budget and a two-minute video explaining their idea. The videos were shared on https://Yukon.ca from Oct. 20 to Nov. 3.

The Department of Tourism and Culture received 93 eligible expressions of interest.

A review process resulted in 17 projects invited to proceed to the second stage.

Fourteen proposals were received during the second stage and a review process narrowed them to the final 10.

The Yukon’s anniversary is being commemorated from June 13, 2023 – 125 years from when the territory joined Confederation – to June 13, 2024, rather than the calendar year of 2023.

Beginning in March, the award recipients will share their progress through a host of social media formats.

“Follow along with each project as they showcase the North and highlight the Yukon’s spirit of adventure, artistry and innovation,” the government said.

“The prize’s aim is to inspire the next generation of Yukoners to be bold and creative and to entice others to experience the magic of this place.”

Tourism and Culture Minister John Streicker congratulated the winners.

“Seeing these ideas unfold in the upcoming year will be truly incredible. I encourage all Yukoners to follow along on social media and be inspired by these three innovative and bold pursuits,” he said.

Comments (11)

Up 32 Down 1

Apex Parasite on Feb 12, 2024 at 12:36 pm

I'm sad my tax dollars and those of other Canadians is being frittered away in this manner.

Money for nothing...kicks for free...

Up 43 Down 1

Wes on Feb 9, 2024 at 4:38 pm

Innovative projects???
Y’know what would have been a nice present to Yukoners? Maybe giving us a new campground?
I fail to see how these projects benefit anybody but the recipients. And choppering around like this, I’m guessing YG isn’t going to worry about that carbon footprint eh?

Up 38 Down 1

caribouStu on Feb 9, 2024 at 4:22 pm

This seems like pretty funny satire on government waste...but it looks like it is actually a real news story. You can't even make this stuff up!

Up 64 Down 6

JustSayin' on Feb 9, 2024 at 9:11 am

Wow, we have no nurses, rolling community nurse shortages. WGH is stretched to its maximum, and this is how 250 K will be spent? This is the lasting legacy for the future. Are you effing kidding me?
How about getting mental support staff for people so they do not have to resort to drugs and potentially become a statistic?

Up 48 Down 3

Dave on Feb 8, 2024 at 2:46 pm

Inspiring young people with piano music doesn't seem that well thought either

Up 66 Down 4

Dave on Feb 8, 2024 at 2:44 pm

In a territory known for wasting tax dollars, this might be the most ridiculous project yet. How anyone can justify a government funded music video when the radio talked about staff shortages at the hospital today is embarrassing.

Up 60 Down 3

Tater on Feb 8, 2024 at 2:16 pm

$125000 of taxpayers money to fly a grand piano into Kluane Park to make a 10 minute music video.
Please explain to me how this is a wise and needed expenditure given the long outstanding social issues we currently face. Will the person who cannot find a reasonable rent apartment think so?

Up 46 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Feb 8, 2024 at 12:43 pm

Art for Art's sake. And stealing Supertramp's Even in the Quietest Moments cover art is not art - its plagerizing.

Up 80 Down 3

yukonmom on Feb 7, 2024 at 7:11 pm

so YG is funding a helicopter to fly a grand piano around kluane national park for dramatic music. (did the parks people have any say in this?) and how does the declared climate emergency fit into this? do you ever wonder why people are jaded and cynical???? as they used to say in the mining camp we lived close to in the 1980s no less, "how many dinosaurs per whop (of the helicopter blades) is that? they will probably get exemptions on the carbon tax on the fuel too.

Up 86 Down 4

Trevor Braun on Feb 7, 2024 at 10:26 am

Wow over $200 000 going to these 3 projects? Do we not have a Major Opioid and Alcohol problem in the Yukon? Are we not on the verge of a catastrophic climate event? Do we not have a major housing crisis? Do we not have many more important challenges to resolve than spending a $125 000 to fly a Piano into Kluane Park?

Up 1 Down 0

Ronnie on Feb 6, 2024 at 2:06 pm

From 93 entries, the best proposal was to fly a piano up a mountain? For $125K? Who was on the selection committee? I'm not sure taxpayers in the rest of Canada, who are paying for this, would approve of YG spending their money this way with so many far more important public priorities like homelessness, mental health, education, etc.

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