Hall of Innovators 2022

December 9, 2022
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Press release from Yukonstruct

It is our greatest pleasure to present the recipients of the 2022 Hall of Innovators Awards.

The evening was a beautiful celebration of innovation, honouring a group of incredible Yukoners who are transforming systems, who are innovating to empower youth, to tackle complex challenges like education, food insecurity and climate change, and working to build a sustainable and equitable future for all of us.

Bob Sharp, Lifetime Achievement Award

Bob Sharp has been making an impact in our territory for decades. As an educator here since the 1970s, he has been a positive influence to generations of Yukoners. While he has made a difference in varied ways, most notable this evening is his innovative approach to teaching and to life.

With the vision of offering students a new way to gain knowledge, Bob created the model of hands-on learning at Wood Street School. Instead of being restricted to within the school walls, the groundbreaking Experiential Science 11 Program expanded the idea of a classroom into the great outdoors.

Not limited to books or indoor labs, this new high school experience included fresh-air spaces like The Yukon River, McIntyre Creek, Spook Creek, even along roads and city streets. It was in places like these that lessons came alive as Bob taught the high school students about the ecology of the land and water, how to conduct experiments and to present their findings.

Bob has also been an instructor at Yukon College, now YukonU, and taught the Yukon Native Teacher Education Program. Most recently he developed a course on climate change and its impact on us and the world.

Throughout his career, he has also been a mentor to young educators who have gone on to model his example of excellence.

He has now retired from full-time education, but certainly not from innovation. He and his son Andrew build cold-climate greenhouses designed to extend the growing season and maximize the yield for gardeners north of 60. When interest came from farther away than was practical to ship a greenhouse, they came up with a feasible way to package the greenhouses into DIY kits with instructions for people to build them themselves.

Bob is also an involved supporter of Yukonstruct’s Makespace, just one more way he continues to foster the territory’s spirit of innovation. He is generous with his expertise and time. To quote one of the nomination submissions: “If it’s not available, Bob designs it and builds it – and then shares the blueprints.”

We are honoured to present him with this very well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jackie Olson, Lifetime Achievement Award

Artist… leader… entrepreneur… and innovator.

As a member of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, Jackie Olson has chosen to spend most of her life in Dawson City. However, the impact of her work and her innovative spirit has reached much further.

In her early 20s, she took a position in Whitehorse with the Yukon Indian Arts and Crafts Cooperative. A wholly First Nations-owned business focused on promoting Indigenous culture while also turning a profit, the co-op itself was innovative. Jackie made the most of the opportunity by learning on her feet and taking whatever challenges came her way, from fixing the parka factory’s sewing machines, to managing a staff of almost two-dozen skilled craftspeople.

Her formal education reflects this combination of creativity, artistry, and business skills. She entered the Arts Administration program in Victoria and went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Alberta College of Fine Arts.

As a contemporary artist, her innovative work blends the ancient processes of her ancestors, local materials and her connection to the land. Her reimagining of age-old Yukon practices produces an inspired new way of creating art.

Today, Jackie Olson art is showcased in collections around the world, including the National Indian Art Centre, the Bavaria State Anthropology Museum, the Yukon Permanent Art Collection and the Yukon Arts Centre Permanent Collection.

Jackie continues to demonstrate how the promotion of Indigenous culture and craftsmanship can generate economic self-sufficiency. By taking ownership of program development, research, training, and business administration, she forges a new path for other Indigenous artists in the industry, and has shown the world of possibility.

She shares her knowledge in part through the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, the Yukon School of Visual Arts, and as the lead instructor for Yukon University’s new Inspire program. She also contributes her time and expertise on numerous boards and advisory committees.

A visionary and champion of economic and community development, she has been instrumental in positioning her hometown of Dawson City as a centre for creative artists and industry leaders.

Jackie is living proof that First Nation artists can promote and practice their culture in a way that generates self-sufficiency… She is proof that innovation can lead to success.

Angela Drainville, Notable Innovators Award

Theatre can be a magical experience, for the audience and for those on stage and behind the scenes. It can be transformative for you. That is what Angela Drainville and Yukon Theatre for Young People have done for Yukon youth.

Angela identified a gap and then worked tirelessly to make YTYP a reality.

Thanks to her vision, creativity, and innovation, our social landscape has changed for the better. There’s a brighter future for the Yukon’s young performers. Many of you here probably saw YTYP’s full-length Broadway productions of Newsies and Les Mis’. If so, you understand why audience reaction included reviews like “What a gift!” and “this restored my faith in humanity and the power of youth!”.

From the start, Angela set out to make YTYP a youth-driven organization. Its Youth Steering Committee is made up of senior youth members who provide a youth voice to the board, submit ideas, volunteer, and mentor younger members.

This innovative organizational structure ensures youth feel heard and are a part of decision-making. It generates a self-sustaining legacy as younger members, who benefit from the mentoring, become the leaders and mentors of the future.

As Executive Artistic Director, Angela leads tirelessly and innovatively. She kept the youth engaged during pandemic restrictions, through virtual workshops and then outdoor and live-streamed performances. Her vision and creativity ensures that even under challenging circumstances the show will go on.

Intent on reducing barriers to youth participation, she has sought out solutions to keep the program cost-free. Anyone who wants to join will not be turned away.

Angela Drainville has an innovative and indomitable spirit. She values communication and collaboration and puts her heart into every performance and project YTYP undertakes. She is the driving force of this youthful tour de force, and she certainly deserves this place in our Hall of Innovators.

Shadelle Chambers, Notable Innovators Award

Innovators are change-makers, and Shadelle Chambers’ work is changing lives.

The submission nominating Shadelle for this award referred to her as exactly who the Elders meant when they wrote the historic document Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow. By helping lead First Nation communities through the doors that land claims opened, she is one of those “children of tomorrow.”

Shadelle is a member of the wolf clan of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, and is the Executive Director of the Council of Yukon First Nations. She was instrumental in the creation and implementation of CYFN’s Family Preservation Services.

This revolutionary initiative provides culturally grounded, wrap-around supports and services to Yukon First Nations and Indigenous children and families. It has resulted in stronger-than-ever First Nations voices in child welfare, and is an powerful example of how being innovative truly can change lives.

A passionate and dedicated advocate, Shadelle is laser-focused on supporting First Nation self-determination. Her career is a master class in challenging the status quo, in leading with integrity, and listening with intent.

She takes risks and tries new things, and is also open to exploring the new ideas that others bring forward. Through her innovative spirit, she not only is upending colonial systems that never should have been but is also rebuilding in their place.

A true trailblazer, Shadelle continues to work hard to bring forward new programming, services, and ways to make the Yukon territory an even better place.

Yukon First Nation Climate Action Fellowship,
Youth/Emerging Leaders Notable Innovators Award

Across the country and around the world, work is being done to fight climate change. Right here in the Yukon, an innovative group is approaching it in a new and different way.

The Yukon First Nation Climate Action Fellowship is comprised of YFN emerging leaders. At the direction of YFN Chiefs, they have been tasked with developing solutions to address climate change.

Typically, climate action engages the mental and physical quadrants of the medicine wheel. For example, focusing on carbon dioxide emissions and physical impacts like permafrost melt.

But “typical” is not what the YFN Climate Action Fellowship is about…

The fellows began their work by engaging with the other half of the medicine wheel – the emotional and spiritual. This enabled them to explore what climate change really is, from a Yukon First Nations worldview.

Supported by a Steering Committee of various stakeholders, experts and YFN Elders, the fellows can be innovative and explore new and different ideas, with the Elders guiding the work.

Reconnection is the lens that guides this group as they seek climate action solutions. In their video “Reconnection is Climate Action”, one of fellows describes how through this deeper connection, one can feel the grief that the land is going through.

The balance of traditional and Indigenous knowledge and western and modern science is critical in building solutions to the climate crisis.

The fellows, through their work and plan, are breaking ground to develop solutions for the biggest challenge of our time. They are showing us the path towards improving the lives of northerners, now and into the future.

Honouring Mark Preston

This year we were truly saddened this year to learn of the passing of Tlingit artist Mark Preston, the artist who designed the beautiful Hall of Innovators installation at NorthLight, as well as the awards each recipient received at this year’s ceremony. Mark brought forward his vision of having the hall be reflective of the land and the people of the Yukon, with both the hall and the awards being created in the style of the inland Tlingit, a style of art that reflects Mark’s ancestral lineage, representing a post and beam longhouse and the feast dishes that community would have gathered around to celebrate. We want to honour the incredible impact Mark has made on the arts community in the Yukon and across the world.

His art is a beautiful blend of minimalism and abstraction that has inspired and spoken to so many, and we honour him, and hold him in our hearts.

Yukonstruct welcomes nominations for the 4th Annual Hall of Innovator Awards in October 2023.