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Yorkton artist adapts Ukrainian folklore tales

Show pARTners Gallery at the Yorkton Public Library.

YORKTON - Hope Sutton wanted to share stories of Ukraine folklore with her family. 

“I went looking for Ukrainian folk tales to tell my grandchildren,” she explained.

And, she found some, but the stories of old aren’t exactly suitable for current times, noted Sutton. 

“I found a lot of folklore was gory,” she said, adding that wasn’t something she wished to share with her grandchildren. 

Sutton said the old stories often had elements which instilled fear in children as a way to protect them. For example, water sprites lived in lakes and would take unwary children in the water, so stay out of the lake, or evil witches lived in the forest so don’t go in there where you might get lost. 

So, Sutton made a decision. 

“I thought I’d make up my own (stories),” she said. “That’s where it started.” 

Sutton said she didn’t want to abandon Ukrainian folklore completely, but she did want to update it, and make it more palatable for today’s children. 

So, like her own ancestors who immigrated from Ukraine to Canada, evolving in the process, so too would the tree spirits and water fey of Ukraine. 

“I had them immigrate to Canada to allow them to change and morph,” said Sutton. 

Sutton penned a short story, where Ukrainian sprites headed to Canada. 

“They hid in Baba’s trunk and made the journey to come to live in Canada by a lake,” she explained. 

Art of the fey in the story quickly followed. 

“I’ve done art all my life,” she said, adding she took one class, but for the most part has been self taught. 

The art was a different way to express the stories that were now percolating in her mind. 

“I thought let’s go on a journey,” she said.  

The art journey had Sutton with three pieces done, and on something of a whim she took them to the local art show hosted by the Godfrey Dean Gallery in Yorkton in 2018. When that show was complete it was suggested she take the art downstairs to show Tonia Vermette with pARTners Gallery. So she did, and was quickly offered a show. 

Three art pieces do not a show make however. 

Suddenly Sutton was set with a task, and in she dove. 

With COVID curbing most activities Sutton went to work.  

There are now nine stories, which have a common thread running through them. With the stories came more art, enough to finally fill the small pARTners Gallery at the Yorkton Public Library. The show was hung Tuesday, and will hang there until Dec. 28. 

Through the stories the Rusalk (water sprites), Domovyk (house spirits), and others evolve into kinder, friendlier creatures here in Canada. 

Sutton said there are more stories to write, more art to follow. Where the journey ultimately takes her is yet to be determined, but for now when ideas comes to her as she works in the garden she happily follows them on that journey, 

A reception and storytelling at pARTners will by held this Saturday, Nov. 5, at 2 p.m. 


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