ASSINIBOIA - A vision was birthed in the fall of 1981 in Assiniboia. While the yuppies rocked out to Bon Jovi, U2 and Guns N’ Roses, and trekked to theatres for E.T., Ghostbusters, and Back to the Future, a group of local people formed what is now known as the Assiniboia & District Arts Council.
While the trends of the 80’s are considered retro at best, the rock-solid vision statement of the art’s council is still relevant: “To enrich the community through arts.” The flower representing a 40th anniversary is the gladiola, symbolizing beauty, strength, and generosity. The Arts Council certainly embodies these qualities.
In 1982, the music video was born which launched many artists into stardom, such as Michael Jackson’s “Beat it”, while in Assiniboia, our arts council invited new artists to perform live – can’t beat that! - and gave them a much-needed boost. While there are too many to name, some stand out like the first performer, Liona Boyd, classical guitarist, who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1982, the same year she performed in Assiniboia.
Others include Pavlo Simtikidis, a folk guitarist in a Greek and Spanish style with pop influence. Not yet an international name, Pavlo appreciated the hospitality in Assiniboia where he was fed and encouraged and could sell some CD’s for much needed cash in his pocket. Nobody needs to ask who Pavlo is now. The Canadian Tenors, a newly formed quartet, had their start in Assiniboia.
Later, they catapulted to international fame, but they were here first. The arts council had the vision to invite many incredible entertainers from magicians and singers to brass bands and dancers, and along with support and funding from OSAC (Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils), many were nurtured here and travelled far, like James Coghlin, Marcus Mayell, and Audrey Sproule, known for their dynamic piano and violin performances. We still claim them as our own.
Visual artists have enhanced the beauty of our town with their featured art in the Kay Cristo room at the Assiniboia and District Public Library. Watch for their art displayed on billboards or check out a Pop-Up Art Show and Sale sponsored by the arts council to see our own amazing artist’s work. The arts council also brings in juried art for display at the Shurniak Art Gallery.
The council’s idea – an Art Retreat – had been held annually in July. It attracts artists across Canada and gives them a space to develop their skills and network with each other.
Many of our own artists have been inspired at the retreat. Ken Frederickson, bronze sculptor of Wawota has participated in the art retreat every year and the Shurniak Art Gallery hosted his first ever showing. Later, the Calgary Stampede selected his bronze, “On a Roll” as a trophy for the champions in Junior Steer Riding from 2018-2022, and acquired it to be a permanent piece in the Stampede’s art collection. He was called “extremely talented” by the search committee for the stampede, and Assiniboia won’t let him forget that he put down roots here at the Art Retreat.
How does our arts council attract such talent and keep all their programs running? Their strength is in the volunteers who give tirelessly. They are passionate about sharing the language of art with our community, and then mentoring and growing our own artists of all ages, including children.
Their creative fundraising events, which have given Assiniboia and District much entertainment in themselves, have included the Mistletoe Art and Craft Sale, Co-op Barbecues, a fashion show/art auction, Dinner Theaters with local 2nd Act Adult Drama Club and ACHS Drama Club, and Bunches of Joy Coupons from Mom’s Florist to name a few. That same passion carried them through the lockdowns of COVID as they took to creative online ideas.
The Arts Council contributes in so many ways, like hosting concerts, donating funds to the Performing Arts in School program, providing an annual Music Festival Scholarship, honorariums towards summer camps for students, and providing workshops for all ages (check out the current classes at the Art Gallery).
They’ve donated funds towards the Sound and Lighting projects for the ACHS and Elementary Schools, as well as for the Conexus Auditorium at the Prince of Wales, and the Black Ebony baby grand piano on the Steve Wald Memorial stage which they had on time for the 1984 Hagood Hardy concert and later for the Frank Mills concert.
Beauty, strength, and generosity are character qualities of the arts council volunteers, like the gladiola representing 40 faithful years. Our community is stronger, more beautiful, and has been enriched by their selfless giving.