Skip to content

Wanuskewin opens arts program with generous donation

The Wanuskewin Heritage Park galleries are now named after Olivia and Greg Yuel.
From left, Olivia and Greg Yuel, Wanuskewin Heritage Park Gallery Curator Olivia Kristoff, Elder Mary Lee and Indigenous artist Leah Dorion.

WANUSKEWIN - To promote the work of Indigenous artists from across Canada and the United States, Wanuskewin Heritage Park has opened its Indigenous Artist-in-Residence program to those outside the province.

The program, which aims to provide a space for new-generation artists to find inspiration and guidance from experienced mentors, received a substantial contribution of $675,000 from Saskatoon couple Olivia and Greg Yuel. The couple's donation will also aid Wanuskewin's bid to become a UNESCO World Heritage site. As a gesture of gratitude, the galleries at Wanuskewin Heritage Park will now bear their names.

The Wanuskewin Heritage Park Galleries curator, Olivia Kristoff, shared that the program will now focus more on Indigenous artists from different First Nations across Canada and may include Native American artists from the United States.

“We will focus more on Indigenous artists from different First Nations across Canada. Right now, our galleries are known for Prairie artists, but there are many artists on both the east and west coast and Native American artists in the states,” said Kristoff. 

“These Native American artists in the states are doing amazing work and we want to bring them here. To introduce them and their art styles to Saskatchewan. I think it [the program] will be both national and international.” 

Kristoff said the program would be national and international, adding that they have prepared a studio adjacent to the Olivia and Greg Yuel Galleries as the working space for artists. In the same studio, Métis artists like Leah Dorion used.

“Yes, Leah will be a mentor and we are trying to bring as many artists as possible from the community to help other artists from, maybe, different provinces or even [other] countries. To connect with local Indigenous art,” said Kristoff. 

“We hope to start [the program] probably in August. The artists will have one month onsite here at Wanuskewin and an exhibition will follow in one of the galleries. We hope to have three established and emerging artists in the program this year.” 

The artists will be free to roam the land, and mentors like Leah Dorion will be available to help them bring out their creativity. The program will start in August, with one month onsite at Wanuskewin for the artists, followed by an exhibition in one of the galleries. Three artists, two established and one emerging, are expected to be part of the program this year.

Dorion, a teacher and published writer, described Wanuskewin as a pilgrimage site for creative inspiration and a land where she goes to work on her art. She said that the donation to support the program is a good announcement, adding that she has believed since her 20s that Wanuskewin is inspiring and needs support to be a creative space with a vibrant arts program.

“I think we are in a time where we need to bring back that community and learn by watching. “ [Wanuskewin] is taking place and bringing life in action through music, sharing and growth,” said Dorion. 

“You can have the most beautiful building, but if no people are doing, communicating, sharing and learning, it just does not have the spirit of joy. This [Wanuskewin] is a land where I go as an artist and writer myself.” 

She added that she treats Wanuskewin as a pilgrimage site for creative inspiration every time she begins to work on her art after recently being part of the same program with other artists like her. 

“I got to use this space here at Wanuskewin and go into my artistic practice while engaging with the community in this building. Before this, there was not a dedicated studio for artists to come in and this is like a new home for us,” said Dorion. 

“The donation to support the program is a good announcement and I am pleased to see this because I have believed since I was in my 20s that this place [Wanuskewin] is inspiring and needs to be supported to be a creative space with an active arts program.” 

Greg Yuel said his family had supported various causes in the community, and they were happy to help the program so artists like Dorion could create and express themselves through their work. He credits his wife, Olivia, for making them passionate donors, allowing young artists to showcase their talents in the province.

“The program was put together over five years ago and the first donor was the Royal Bank of Canada. Then we also became donors for quite some time and Wanuskewin always keeps us updated on the events and their activities,” said Yuel. 

“Olivia’s mom was an artist and our appreciation for the arts is rooted in the process where a person can express themselves and share who they are so that the community may understand and relate to what they are trying to express.” 

He added that they were happy to help the program so artists like Dorian could create and express themselves through their work. They contacted Wanuskewin Development and Donor Director Alan Long after learning the program has yet to get sponsors. 

“It was just a perfect fit for us. It was just the right time for us to help Wanuskewin when they were looking for donors. We love this kind of thing and it was just an extension of what we already did. Having the galleries named after us is just a bonus.”

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks