Art and culture
Winter Games go beyond sports

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 10/00) - For anyone who thinks the 2000 Arctic Winter Games is solely a sport gathering, think again.

The games are as much a cultural event, showcasing the talents of performance and visual artists from circumpolar regions, as a sporting event, showcasing athletes' abilities.

"Teams now bring up to eight cultural delegates that are treated the same way as the athletes are," says Julie Wills, cultural manager of the games.

"They march in with their team at the opening ceremonies, they stay at the participants' village, they're equipped with the coat and all of that, so they are very much team members. In the past, it's been up to eight performers and what we've introduced is sort of an ideal composition of those eight team members, of those eight delegates."

Though Wills says it really has been up to the team to decide who will be sent; they've requested they send five performers and a chaperon/coach who can also be a performer, and two visual artists with a recommended age group of 16 to 24 years of age.

"Unlike the sporting competition, the cultural program has really not been set in stone. There hasn't been a cookie-cutter template. It's really been, I think, characteristic of its host society.

"But this host society has really committed to offering an expanded cultural program, a really front-and- centre program involving various different art forms. So we're also placing a lot of emphasis on a visual arts program," says Wills.

The visual artists coming from each region will be grouped with two senior artists from the Yukon in a mentorship relationship.

"We took some inspiration from the Canada Winter Games model. They actually just ran mentorship programs for literary arts, performing arts and for visual arts at the past games. We really were impressed with what they were doing."

At past games, there have been visual arts exhibitions, and Whitehorse intends to keep up that tradition by holding an exhibit at the Yukon Arts Centre gallery.

"It's a fairly ambitious exhibition. We're having each team from each region send a selection of artwork by local artists. There will be a section on each team's region."

Each team has also been asked to select two photographers, preferably youth. Two disposable cameras were sent to each photographer.

"To take pictures of their life's context, more a reality check on what's it's like to live in Alaska, for example."

Finally, nine Yukon artists have been commissioned to each create a work giving their interpretation of one of the team's regions.

The goal for the visual arts component is learning and exchanging, says Wills.

There will be artists from Alaska, Yukon, northern Alberta, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik, Greenland and two Russian provinces, Madagan and Chukotka.

As for the performers, says Wills, they are the backbone of the cultural programming.

"We really try to highlight them throughout the week and they will perform at a variety of venues ranging from day venues that will be quite casual to the galas, which are the more sophisticated state-of-the-art soirees."

In addition to visiting artists, many Yukon artists will also be participating; bringing the total number of artists to over 400.

As the cultural delegates for the NWT and Nunavut are chosen, News/North will profile them in this section.

The Arctic Winter Games take place in Whitehorse, Yukon, March 5- 11.