Operation Chalk the Nation arrives in Whitehorse – Yukon News


For years, a large part of artist Dave Johnston’s career has been creating his work in front of and for large crowds of festival-goers.

While major festival events are on hiatus as the world continues to fight COVID-19, that doesn’t stop the Nova Scotia artist – better known as Chalkmaster Dave – from showcasing his work during of his travels across the country.

“It helps me connect with people,” he said in an interview on Sept. 14 during a brief trip to Whitehorse before heading to Dawson.

Johnston traveled to Dawson City to paint the scenes that make the Klondike so unique. Before even arriving in Dawson, Johnston had ideas for a painting of the infamous Sourtoe Cocktail, perhaps something he could produce in a live demonstration.

Live demos, as well as large pieces of chalk covering city sidewalks, 3D installations and more at events like the Halifax Busker Festival, Singapore Street Festival and others have all been part of the career. over 25 years of Johnston.

That’s until COVID-19 puts festivals and big events on hiatus, leaving Johnston – who is used to working in crowds – largely alone in his Nova Scotia country home with only a few neighbors nearby.

Artist Dave Johnston is in the territory as part of his Operation Chalk the Nation tour. (Submitted / Dave Johnston)

It’s a big change when you’re used to being around a lot of people, Johnston said, noting that although he has organized events online and continues to sell his job in line, it’s not the same as working on the festival circuit.

When an opportunity to sell his house presented itself, he decided to take it and buy an RV.

Initially, he was planning a road trip to visit his children in Montreal and Squamish, British Columbia. With a few jobs producing chalk murals, including one in Vancouver, he soon realized this was an opportunity for adventure and to share his art with new audiences across the country.

He dubbed the trip Operation Chalk the Nation and through it, Johnston uses his art to reach out to people and show that most are not as far apart as the internet would have you believe.

“We lose our nuance in a sound clip,” said Johnston. “We love the zinger.”

While social media can make issues quite polarizing, especially in the midst of a pandemic that no one has experienced before, Johnston pointed out that for the most part everyone is looking for the same things. Health, happiness, taking care of their family are all high on the list.

He added that it’s important for people – as well as being as safe as possible – to come back to a place where they know each other again with better communication.

“Art allowed me to do it,” he said, noting that it acts as a bridge to bigger conversations.

Traveling across the country while producing art sparks discussions, allowing Johnston to meet a wide variety of people from all walks of life.

“It was a truly wonderful experience,” he said, pointing to experiences such as meeting the Bunce family in Jade City, about 115 kilometers north of Dease Lake, BC.

Not really a viewer, Johnston didn’t realize there was a TV show about the family’s jade mining, and likewise, it was only through conversation that they learned about the work of Johnston.

From there, conversations multiplied and Johnston was left with the opportunity to create works of art on the jade mined in the region.

Johnston said his journey both allows him to connect more with people and has also helped him renew his vocation as an artist, making it less of a job these days.

After spending some time in Dawson City, Johnston plans to return to Whitehorse before heading back south and continuing to take his art across the country to Nova Scotia.

Contact Stéphanie Waddell at [email protected]


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