Years of planning came to fruition with the opening of the Red Fish Arts Studio in Cambridge Bay on Sept. 7.
The building was once a fish plant, which inspired the studio’s name. It required close to $700,000 in renovations using federal, territorial and municipal funding to transform the space, according to Marla Limousin, Cambridge Bay’s chief administrative officer. There’s also been financial support through the Arctic Inspiration Prize and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.
Mixed media classes for Elders and youth — the latter offered after school — are already underway. Those programs are complimentary. Others will come at a cost.
“We want the arts studio to be self-sustainable at some point. We realize that it won’t be for a little bit until we work things out,” Limousin said.
Last weekend a slipper-top beading workshop was scheduled at Red Fish, which can accommodate up to 20 people.
One half of the Heritage Park building is devoted to the arts, such as painting, sewing, candle-making and macramé, while the other half is used for welding and carpentry projects. The “dream” is that industrial welding skills could lead to pre-trades opportunities in conjunction with a college or possibly apprenticeships for aspiring local tradespersons, said Limousin.
An arts studio manager has been hired and a red-seal welder is in place to teach those particular skills. Volunteers with a passion for the arts are invited to teach other forms of arts and crafts, although compensation for those instructors will only be possible when participants pay fees, Limousin noted.
“So it’s like actively soliciting all the skills that lie inside of this community,” she said. “It’s working out really nicely. I’m excited.”
The arts studio is the latest addition to a community that has suffered from a plague of property damage over the past several months. The Elders Palace was ransacked in late July, leaving the building in a shambles. Many staff hours were consequently spent cleaning the floors and counters, repairing cupboards, replacing shattered dishes, and discarding couches and carpets that were ruined. Limousin credited the employees for doing an “amazing job.”
A community meeting was held in August to address the issue. Boredom among youths and their need to be away from their homes for a multitude of reasons were fingered as a couple of the causes of the vandalism.
Among the solutions presented was art therapy through Red Fish Arts Studio and a certified art therapist, said Limousin.
“When you start getting involved in art … it gives them self-confidence. It gives them something to do, if nothing else,” she said.
Although other strategies were discussed at the public meeting, Limousin was reluctant to discuss them because the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council is planning to engage their peers at a forum in the next few weeks to get their input on possible approaches.
“Then we can put (the strategies) side by side, without influencing youth about what their parents or adults have said (beforehand),” Limousin explained.