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In the spring of 1998, a group of local artists decided that art education based in Dawson City was on the horizon. They formed the Dawson City Arts Society (DCAS), a non-profit organization with the goal of enriching the quality of life and creating an art-based economy in the Yukon. The Society envisioned the opening of an art centre for the teaching, performance and exhibition of visual, performing, media and literary arts.

In December 1999, the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) proudly commenced operations. In August 2001, the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival was initiated during the Discovery Day weekend. A highlight of the weekend was the grand opening of the KIAC Artist Residency, housed in the Parks Canada owned Macaulay House. Originally held during Discovery Days, the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival has evolved into a festival that ushers in the Dawson summer alongside the banks of the Yukon River, as well as at a variety of other venues, providing a unique, interactive, and diverse artistic experience.