Many people have been involved in the successes of the Saskatchewan Arts Board over the past 70 years. To help celebrate our anniversary, we asked 10 of them to share memories of their time working with the Arts Board.
 

Gursh Barnard (Madhur), former Board member

My time on the SAB was transformational, opening my eyes to a world of possibilities to serve the arts and artists of Saskatchewan. I worked with committed colleagues and developed relationships that carried forward into other activities.

Reflecting back, an important initiative was the establishment of a public foundation so donors could endow support for the arts. An Act of the Legislature formed the Saskatchewan Foundation for the Arts in 1999. Today, I am a trustee of that Foundation and thank the SAB for its continued support of our work.

In 2005, as VP of Culture for the Canada Summer Games, I drew on the SAB’s management team to deliver the arts component of the Games. We then negotiated several legacy-funded arts initiatives administered over the course of a decade by the SAB.

Congratulations on 70 years – the commitments of successive governments, generations of volunteers, dedicated directors and staff – breathing life into Saskatchewan’s maxim “from many peoples, strength.”

 

Heather Cline, former Program Manager of LIVE Arts

It was in 2005 that I proposed a virtual Artist in the School program to staff at the Saskatchewan Arts Board and SCN. From these early discussions a pilot project was born and LIVE Arts started broadcasting. One of my most vivid memories was in the 3rd year of the program, a Grade 1-2 broadcast from Viscount Central School (110 students from Kindergarten through Grade 12). I was guest artist and broadcast coordinator on this occasion, with a Visual Arts program related to geometric shapes. It was a great session but even better was the report back from a participating school at a distance- the teacher in that classroom had embraced the project and had the kids create larger then life geometric monsters. The pictures she sent gave me a wonderful sense of the impact of the program on children across the province and made those difficult early broadcasts feel worthwhile. 

 

Valerie Creighton, former Executive Director

One of the most memorable events I experienced was the attempted government intervention on a highly controversial grant awarded to a Saskatoon artist. Responding to complaints, the Minister of the day rose in the House and stated that she would be requesting the Arts Board revoke the grant. The work of this artist was controversial and distasteful to some, but did not break any laws, was recommended by a jury of peers due to the quality of the work and there were no grounds to revoke the grant. This of course triggered a flurry of activity in the arts community and the public surrounding issues of free speech and censorship of ideas. As it turned out the government backed down. The best part for me was a very interesting call I received from the Chief Justice of Saskatchewan. He asked me how things were going and reminded me to hold my ground as the government had no business interfering in this issue. We had a great chat about all manner of things, and I told him how much I appreciated the call.

That call reinforced my long-held belief that the role of the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Arts Board was, first and foremost, to protect the legislation from the board, government and even public interference. It’s a position that requires neutrality and astute diplomacy to ensure this protection.

 

Jean Freeman, former employee

I was 14 when the Saskatchewan Arts Board was created. I remember being told at the time that it was the first agency of its kind in the world, outside of Great Britain. 

As a wannabe writer/actor/director/mover&shaker, this new entity seemed to promise an entreé to the Arts that hadn’t existed before.

As a fledgling PR/promotion/dogsbody (later PR Director and Literary Arts Officer) I started to work for the SAB in 1970 under the aegis of Cal Abrahamson (later Vern Bell and Joy Cohnstadt.)

I shared an office in the drafty sunporch of what is now Government House, with theatre matriarch Florence B. James who had come from Washington State to the welcoming arms of CCF Saskatchewan, and among other things, bought Globe Theatre to life.

For the next eight years, I happily drove to all sides and corners of the province with Tom Fielding and Lea Collins of the SAB staff and Paul Fudge of the Mackenzie Art Gallery, spreading the word about the exciting projects of this new entity – one being OSAC (the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils – once we formed Arts Councils!) 

 

David Garneau, former Board member

I came to Saskatchewan from Calgary in 1999, for a job at the University of Regina. In Alberta, the arts were continuously under siege. I regularly appeared on radio defending the arts against censorship, funding cuts, and charges of elitism. What a surprise to now be in a province where the arts are embraced by media, government, and regular people. A few years ago, during a Sask Arts Board event, thinking I might catch him out, I asked Education Minister Russ Marchuk how he defends the arts to his less supportive colleagues and constituency members. Without a beat, he gave a most eloquent reply about art being a social good, like libraries, museums, and health care. I credit the Sask Arts Board for its wise management, public relations, and egalitarian policies for creating such an arts smart province.

 

Marnie Gladwell, Executive Director of Saskatchewan Arts Alliance

Since the 1984 Committee, which eventually became the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance, the SAA has been a champion of the Saskatchewan Arts Board and its role as an arms-length arts agency that supports excellence in the arts. The Arts Board’s support of the province’s artists and arts organizations remains foundational to development and sustainability of the high-quality arts activity of today. The respectful relationship between the Arts Alliance and the Arts Board – formally established in 2002 along with SaskCulture – acknowledges each other’s roles and commitment to work together. The Arts Board’s recognition of the SAA as a collective voice for the Saskatchewan arts community has let us pursue successful initiatives such as status of the artist legislation, arts policy and unique Saskatchewan-based arts research.

Congratulations Arts Board for your 70 years of leadership in the arts. The SAA applauds you. Bravo.

 

George Glenn, former Board member

Born in Saskatchewan, I moved out of province with my family but returned in 1975 with the support of a Saskatchewan Arts Board short term residency grant.

Just prior to getting the grant I remember talking with Visual Arts Consultant Lea Collins. Both pragmatic and intuitive, she had in mind a residency and suggested that I meet Margreet van Walsem an artist living in Prince Albert. So, I caught the STC bus to PA. Margreet helped me get settled and that short-term grant led to my 43-year residency. There is no place which could have offered me greater rewards.

Thousands of Arts Board grants have helped artists create, make a living and contribute to arts communities across the province. Long live the Saskatchewan Arts Board – supporting the arts for the benefit of all. 

 

Carol Greyeyes, former employee

Imagine unwrapping packages containing exquisite pieces of traditional Indigenous artwork--experiencing the smoky aroma of tanned moose hide, the shimmer of beads on velvet, vibrant porcupine quills against soft white deer hide, birchbark baskets with their subtle red willow and spruce root decoration, and a dream-like spirit figure carved in elk bone. As the Indigenous Arts Advisor in 2005, I had the privilege of working alongside Sherry Farrell Racette and Carmen Roberston, curators of the exhibition, Clearing A Path: New Ways of Seeing Traditional Indigenous Art. This exhibition was commissioned by the Arts Board as part of the province’s centennial celebrations. Not only did the exhibition tour extensively for several years and was published in a book, it also went to the Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics. But I will never forget the thrill of seeing those pieces for the first time--feeling the love and spirit they contained. An indelible memory.

 

Don Kerr, former Board member

When I was first on the Arts Board our Chair was Wayne Schmalz. As Chair, he was in a sense one of us. He never played rank… I’d known him earlier as a CBC producer, and I’d written four radio plays for him and edited an excellent book by Wayne for Coteau Books on the history of radio in Saskatchewan. Wayne continue our once-a-year meeting with all the clients we funded. I learned much about the arts climate from such meetings…

Janice Shoquist and I, after being inspired by a drink or two, invented “The Ten Days of Christmas in the Arts.” Boy, were we smart! I remember now only the last day of Christmas, “…and a single arts agency,” with appropriate rhythm. Janice could sing – I sort of mumbled along. We both remember the pleasure of that evening…

It was a great privilege being on the Arts Board. It tested your knowledge and you learned to work with others. Great times, met friends and made many new friends.

 

Anita Rocamora, visual artist

Grant Writing 101  

The hopeful first proposal, written at the last minute, naturally, but so eloquent, it cannot fail to wow the jurors. A project so original and well thought-out, brilliant really, let’s not be overly modest. It will propel the artist’s career into posterity and, hopefully, prosperity.

The artist imagines the critical acclaim, the ground-breaking artistic and spiritual innovation. A Nobel is not out of the question.

The artist waits. There is occasional mental bitchery: “Nothing from the Arts Board yet? How inconsiderate….I have a masterpiece to a-born.”

Then an envelope arrives, but, GIANT BUMMER! It is the sensitive, considerate, regretful, letter of rejection.

The artist is furious: “Another jury of incompetent, biased fools! A disgrace, a fraud!”

The artist is hurt: “This was my best idea EVER. Am I a has-been already? Is my career circling the drain? Do I have to be a bartender again?”

But the artist, though equipped with a healthy ego, is dedicated and hard working, despite setbacks. S/he carries on regardless, does good work with sufficient success and acclaim, and thinks back on that first rejected proposal from a more mature perspective: “Stupid idea, what a stinker!….Good thing it didn’t get funded!”