The Wildcat Cafe in Yellowknife's Old Town. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio
The Yellowknife Artists Co-operative says it has signed a contract to turn the city’s Wildcat Café into an artistic community hub for the months of August and September.
The café, first opened in 1937, is one of Yellowknife’s heritage icons but has sat empty so far this summer after the City of Yellowknife, which owns the building, received no bids to operate it.
At the start of July, theYellowknife Artists Co-operative said it had applied to run the café for the remainder of the summer. On Saturday, the group said it had finalized a contract with the city.
“We’ve already been in and we’re going to have events starting as of next week,” said Sofia Grogono, who will be the arts program coordinator for the summer-long centre.
“As a space, it’s kind-of the ideal blank canvas for us. It’s got table space, floor space, deck space, and it’s a beautiful heritage building.”
The first public event at the Wildcat this summer will be Trashformation – an Old Town Ramble and Ride art show held in partnership with Ecology North – on Saturday, July 31 and Sunday, August 1.
Some other Ramble and Ride events will be held at the Wildcat, Grogono said, while most Fridays at the café will be jam nights for local musicians.
There will also be weekly community meetings, Grogono added, where “people can come forward about our vision of building an arts and healing centre and contribute to that.”
The group hopes to ultimately create a permanent arts and healing centre in Yellowknife.
“Yellowknife doesn’t have a community space where we can gather and create together. Lots of artists either struggle or go down south for training opportunities and studio space,” said Grogono.
“The healing component is because a lot of our research has been supported by the understanding that arts are an integral part of a functioning community. Yoga or dance can be considered healing arts, alongside art therapy – painting and drawing – which has proven benefits.”
The next step will be to find a venue for the winter months.
“We have the Wildcat until the end of September. We’re going to take the momentum and the network that we’re building with this step, in the Wildcat, and see where it needs to go for the winter, whether that’s a warehouse in Kam Lake or someone’s garage,” said Grogono.
“There have already been some propositions. Down the line, the five or 10-year plan is to ideally have a space built. We have this amazing multiplex uptown, we have the fieldhouse for sports. We need something on that scale focused on community healing and artwork creation.
“This is a collaborative effort. We invite and encourage anyone to step forward and offer what they want to contribute or what they want to see, what they’re dreaming of.”