Yellowknifers appeared delighted to see the reopening of public programming at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre as they embraced craft-related events Sept. 25-27.
The museum events were part of an ongoing festival called Crafted NWT 2020, which began Sept. 20 and runs to Oct. 4.
The weekend began with a Friday session with Oscar Carillo at Pontoon Lake. He taught how to make a whitefish lure. This was followed by a net-making session that Tony Procure led at the museum on Saturday.
On Sunday, Rosanna Strong held a fish-printing seminar that had many participants painting, printing, displaying and leaving with colourful fish-print related artwork.
The craft-working sessions complemented a special exhibit celebrating craft-making as a way to express stories in the North, set to run to the end of March 2021.
The museum also provided an audio guide featuring Dene elder Fred Sangris. He recounts a fishing trip, speaking in both English and Wilideh Yati.
Mike Mitchell, curator of heritage language and public programs with the museum, said pre-registered spots for all sessions were mostly full, reflecting the demand by people wanting to work in physical spaces again.
“I think there has been a real appetite for person-to-person interactions,” Mitchell said. “It was nice to see that people were really compliant and cooperating with masks and other safety measures. I think most realize it was a small price to pay to have public sessions close to how we used to do them before Covid-19.
“We just want to see more people go to the museum”
Mitchell said it was a positive experience to work with partnering arts organizations like NWT Arts and the Yellowknife Artist Run Community Centre (YARCC).
YARCC hosted a mobile arts gallery in the museum parking lot over the weekend. It featured the photography of Anne Steeves and other tactile arts pieces on display. Fish prints from the museum session were also hung for the public to view.
The Down to Earth Gallery in Old Town is also a partner in promoting craft as it is held a small willow basket workshop on Sept. 20 with Cathie Harper. The gallery will also hold a Craft Your Own Dinner Bell workshop with Franziska Ulbricht on Oct. 4.
Johanna Tiemessen, manager of arts and fine crafts with NWT Arts, said Crafted NWT 2020 comes out of a larger national effort by the Canadian Crafts Federation.
“We feel happy about the activities that we were able to organize and execute that were smaller or, in other cases, that were moved online,” Tiemessen said. “We also were able to get the museum exhibit and a virtual tour of the exhibit for those outside of Yellowknife… up to end of March 2021.”
Tiemessen the craft-focused days are intended to bring awareness of craft-making, not only as a way for storytelling, but of art in and of itself.
“The whole two weeks we have these activities to bring awareness of craft and culture and tradition and things that people make and also sell as an economic opportunity,” she said. “That is important because the value of craft is just as important and of value as a painting, which would be classified as art. It is something that you are looking at and also something that has so much work involved, so people should have the same kind of appreciation of craft as art. “