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Bunkhouse project, giving local artists a platform

A Saskatchewan Arts Board grant funded the Bunkhouse project

SASKATOON — The Artists in Place: The Bunkhouse Project is the City of Saskatoon’s answer from local artists who may need space to hone their craft then hold an exhibit and perform after their almost year-long residency.

“The impetus behind the Bunkhouse Project was a recommendation in the city’s 2018 Culture Plan Refresh, specifically to ‘investigate placing artists-in-residence in city-owned facilities,’ Recreation and Community Development Manager Kevin Kitchen told SASKTODAY.

"We heard this loud and clearly from artists in the community; the need for studio space.”

The Bunkhouse, built in 1916, inside the Saskatoon Forestry Farm and Park Zoo was the chosen facility to host the artists.

The last cohort to used the Bunkhouse — from Sept. 1, 2020 to April 27, 2021 — were visual artists Kas Rea and Julia Million and Wonder Collective theatre artists Drew Mantyka and Sammy Ramsay. The four held an exhibit and presented their respective works last Aug. 28 just outside the Bunkhouse.

University of Saskatchewan graduates Cristine Andrew-Stuckel and Diana Roelens, spoken word artist Peace Akintade, musician Micah Jane, visual artist Jane Reväe McWhirter, and filmmaker Ania ƚlusarczyk are the current artists-in-residence at the Bunkhouse.

“In searching for a suitable civic facility, the historic Bunkhouse came up as a possibility; in part because it was not being fully utilized so space was available, and because we felt it created the right artistic ambience. After some minor renovations it was ready to be used for the program,” said Kitchen.

City Arts and Grants Consultant Kathy Allen said RCD received a grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board, which helped with the design of the program for the first residences three years ago.

Project organizers, however, had to adjust last year’s program due to the pandemic where artists alternately used the Bunkhouse.

“Provincial health guidelines limited the number of artists in the Bunkhouse at one time; artist teams had to be in the same bubble already, and the artists’ year-end exhibition had to be moved outside. Otherwise, provided they were following the guidelines, individual artists were able to carry on creating as they would have pre-pandemic,” said Kitchen.

Allen added: “since artists had to stay separated from each other in the Bunkhouse, monthly zoom meetings where held were they talked about what they were creating. For myself personally this was a very refreshing thing to be doing — very positive and uplifting to hear what the artists were working on.”

The city is now accepting applications for the next cohort with the Bunkhouse going to be available to three individual artists or a team from the period of Jan. 10 to May 31, 2022. Deadline of submission of entries is at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 4. The application is available on the city website under Arts & Culture Activities.