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This article is part of a Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post series called ‘The road less travelled,’ exploring rural art and artists in Saskatchewan. Read more in the paper or online at thestarphoenix.com and leaderpost.com.
Where there is art and artists, there are galleries to showcase the work.
Scattered across Saskatchewan is a colourful collection of galleries displaying the work of local and visiting artists alike. Many of the buildings housing them are creative by design, and others are creative by necessity — transforming old and otherwise unused structures into art spaces.
Here are a few unique art galleries in rural Saskatchewan:
And Art Gallery, Davidson
It’s not too often you see a bank vault full of paintings — or at least, not one that’s regularly open to the public.
When Gail Prpick had the opportunity, she transformed the century-old brick building in downtown Davidson into an artistic haven for local artists.
Prpick’s And Art Gallery hosts local and regional artists on its walls and in the old bank vault. She said works produced by about seven other artists from the area are currently on display.
A lot of people are surprised to find a gallery of this scope in a place as small as Davidson, which is just one more reason she’s happy to keep the place running smoothly, she said.
“I’m proud, because a lot of these artists wouldn’t be showing otherwise. People don’t realize how much talent is out there, and they can come take a look and it doesn’t cost anything.”
Happy Chance Treasures, Hawarden
Shawna Mitchell was looking for a place to start her own art venture with her partner when they stumbled on the old, unused church in the village of Hawarden.
They bought the building, refurbished it, and launched Happy Chance Treasures art gallery.
Mitchell said as a young artist, she knew she was among a select few who owned and ran galleries. Hawarden is fairly remote, but enough traffic passes through the town that they still get their fair share of visitors, she said.
The old church building has been entirely converted as a space for Mitchell and her partner to continue creating and invite people in to a unique gallery space in Saskatchewan.
“It was a building designed for people to feel glorified, to feel peaceful,” Mitchell said. “It was meant for people to … feel at home, and I think even though we’ve changed a couple of things, that feeling is still there.”
Station Arts Centre, Rosthern
It’s an art gallery, a theatre performance venue, a small “tea room” café, a train caboose museum — the list goes on and on for the Station Arts Centre.
As an artistic space built in an old train station building in Rosthern, Sask., the centre is most certainly unique.
The Station Arts Centre is based in a renovated CN Railway station, re-using a building with strong ties to Saskatchewan’s settler history that might have otherwise fallen into disrepair.
Executive director Nicole Thiessen said the centre is an artistic hub for much of the neighbouring community and most of Saskatchewan, despite its rural setting.
“People are very loyal to the arts in this area,” she said. “They take a lot of pride in the communities in this area … there are wonderful supporters right here, close to us.”
Thiessen said she enjoys seeing visitors’ expressions when they walk through the door. Like Prpick, she said most people don’t expect to find something like this in small-town Saskatchewan.
Prairie Wind & Silver Sage, Val Marie
Far in the south of Saskatchewan, there’s a schoolhouse in Val Marie that’s nearly a century old.
Instead of hosting classes, the “little brick schoolhouse” is now an art gallery, coffee shop, “ecomuseum” and more.
Prairie Wind & Silver Sage is a non-profit organization that runs the various branches housed in the old schoolhouse. It was built in 1927 — one year after the incorporation of the village of Val Marie, according to the PWSS website — and ultimately saved from demolition when the non-profit refurbished it into a multipurpose artistic and heritage space.
Despite its remote location, the PWSS hosts art and exhibitions in two small separate galleries, and has hosted artists in an artist-in-residence program.
Little Manitou Art Gallery, Manitou Beach
Most people visit Manitou Beach for the beautiful mineral waters, but it’s almost impossible for the Little Manitou Art Gallery not to catch their eyes.
The gallery, built in the heart of the village, started as one small building to house the artwork of Sarah McKen and her partner.
That first small building is still there — at the heart of a series of showcases, stages, and gardens that fill out the Little Manitou Art Gallery.
“It has organically grown and come together,” McKen said. “Artists have joined us, friends have given suggestions … it is so much more than we ever thought it could be.”
McKen said the gallery grew by word of mouth, starting with just a handful of artists to more than 180 from across the province and beyond.
The colourful array of buildings hold gallery and work spaces, as well as a stage for musical performances. The space may have started as a small gallery in rural Saskatchewan, but it has grown to be another destination in the tourist town.
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Moose Jaw Art Guild meets to discuss its upcoming MJMAG exhibition – moosejawtoday.com
The Moose Jaw Art Guild is excited for their 54th Christmas exhibition at the Museum & Art Gallery
Led by President Karen Walpole, ten members of Moose Jaw’s Art Guild gathered for only the second time in 18 months to discuss their upcoming exhibition. The forms necessary for submission were distributed, and everyone chatted about how their works were progressing.
The theme for this year is “Looking Out My Window,” to be interpreted by the artist. A variety of mediums are encouraged, including drawings, pastels, watercolours, and sculptures.
Many of the works displayed in MJMAG’s lobby will be for sale. The exhibition will open on Nov. 12th, and continue until Jan. 9th of next year.
Karen Walpole noted that she is “always excited” to share some of the Art Guild’s venerable history, particularly in regards to its role in the founding of MJMAG. She says that, “Back in 1963, the City of Moose Jaw asked what was then the Moose Jaw Fine Arts Guild to comment on their plan to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday.”
The Guild took that chance to strongly endorse and lobby for a “Cultural Centre” in Crescent Park near the Public Library. The Moose Jaw Art Museum opened in 1967, and the Art Guild has had an annual exhibition there ever since.
Jennifer McRorie, MJMAG’s current curator and director, confirms that the Art Guild was “instrumental in getting the art museum established.” She adds that, “In 2017 we celebrated our 50th anniversary, and so we actually presented an exhibition from our permanent collection that was the result of 50 years of collecting the work of Moose Jaw artists.”
The Guild itself was established on a cold February night in 1929, after a presentation by influential Saskatchewan artists Vaughan Grayson and Barbara Barber. That night, the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan was voted into existence. In 1957 it became the Moose Jaw Fine Art Guild, and in 1984 it achieved its current form as the Moose Jaw Art Guild.
This year’s exhibition comes on the heels, obviously, of the enormous disruption of the global pandemic. Nevertheless, the Guild endures, and is always open to new members. Walpole sincerely emphasizes that one purpose of their showings is to, “provide encouragement and an introduction to many of us that want to try our artistic hands, but don’t know where to start.”
Art is about expression, moving beyond the limitations of language to convey emotion in a subjective, yet direct way. Although it is not possible to control exactly how one’s art is perceived, this should not be a barrier. The main thing, Walpole says, is “to have the confidence to at least attempt an art form of some kind.”
More information about the Art Guild, its meetings, and how to join can be found on their Facebook page.
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A rare opportunity saw Andrew Hawley join the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) as a casual art handler after graduating from his BFA in Drawing at RMIT in 2003.
Eighteen years later, he is now the Collection and Exhibition Preparator at Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), known for their eccentric and challenging exhibitions, and undoubtedly, one of the most exciting environments in which to work in art installations, storage, and exhibition preparations.
He also holds a Masters in Cultural Materials Conservation from the University of Melbourne, and has worked across ACMI, the Victorian Arts Centre, ExhibitOne, POD Museum and Art services, and the Melbourne Immigration Museum.
From Ron Meuck’s 10 metre infant sculpture to Ai Weiwei’s White House (2015) in Mona’s Siloam, Hawley and his colleagues are the answer to your question: ‘But how did they manage to get it there?’
Here, Hawley shares the excitement of working on high-profile exhibitions and discusses the skills you would need to pursue this challenging but rewarding profession.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO?
In a nutshell; I prepare artwork and other culturally significant material for storage, exhibition and loan, and assist with exhibition/display installation. My role is quite varied but I spend most of my time at our off-site collection store where I design, construct and fit out custom packing units for artworks. These vary from timber crates and travel frames to archival board boxes, archival tubes for rolled works and the occasional solander box. I also ensure artwork is clean and display ready.
I organise and maintain the off-site collection storage area which involves a lot of 3D Tetris. I work closely with colleagues including registrars, a conservator, a mount maker and several other very highly skilled art handler/technicians as well as a wider team of kinetic artwork and time based media technicians.
I assist with exhibition installation/deinstallation and collection changeover at the museum and some external locations during festivals.
I’m also a qualified paper conservator so I undertake some conservation assessments and treatments when required.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN YOUR CAREER?
I finished a fine art degree in 2003 and was looking for something outside the hospitality industry and inside the museum/gallery industry. Luckily, a regular customer at one of the venues I worked in (as a chef/cook), let word slip that the National Gallery of Victoria were hiring casual art handlers to prepare to move into the refurbished premises at St Kilda Road. I got the boss’ details, wrote an application letter, attended a job interview and somehow was successful, despite no prior experience.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THE MOST IN YOUR JOB?
Unique challenges and a reliance on lateral thinking for solutions – something I experience almost every day. I also have great colleagues with whom I liaise about all aspects of the job. We learn from each others’ creative perspectives.
I love the excitement of a large or high profile exhibition, including engagement with external or international artists and curators, trying to help realise a vision that may or may not be clear in everybody’s mind. I equally love the calm and solitude of a collection store and the fact that I work so closely with museum objects on a daily basis. If I have a bad day, looking at an ancient Egyptian mummified cat or some 2,000 year old bronze knife coins is very soothing.
IN AN INTERVIEW FOR YOUR JOB, WHAT SKILLS AND QUALITIES WOULD YOU LOOK FOR?
Similar institutional experience in a similar capacity (eg. art handling, art packing) would be a must. It takes many years to attune yourself to the level of care required around culturally significant objects and irreplaceable artworks.
Other qualifiers would include:
- A strong work ethic
- An ability to handle multiple projects with strict deadlines
- The ability to delegate fun jobs
- The ability to undertake monotonous or tedious jobs
- Strong, clear communication
- Physically fit and able
The ability to look outside oneself and one’s own experience for solutions. It’s a bit of a ‘jack of all trades’ kind of position and a good Jack should know when they need to call on a master of something.
Someone who prefers order and neatness in their professional life. I’m in no way the neatest person in my private life but organising a storage area that keeps artwork safe and secure requires a high degree of attention to detail.
WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE INSTALLATION EXPERIENCES/PROJECTS THAT YOU’VE WORKED ON?
There’s been a lot over the years – I’ve done everything from helping carry and install a 10 metre silicon sculpture of an infant (Ron Mueck) to hanging iconic works from Picasso, Munch or Tom Roberts. From installing 100 tiny neolithic arrow/spear heads in one showcase to helping build a large, imperial Chinese house framework on glass balls (Ai Weiwei), and from installing famous AFL players’ jerseys in a sports museum (MCG/Australian Sports Museum) to hanging stills from Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey (ACMI).
It’s hard to pick one moment from one project. In recent times, it’s probably been the preparatory work and final install of big MONA shows like On the Origins of Art, The Museum of Everything and our recent Monanisms 2021 collection based exhibition.
WHAT’S THE BEST THING HAPPENING IN YOUR SECTOR AT THE MOMENT?
We’re still operating and I still enjoy my job.
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