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Watch: Founder honoured during open house at Shurniak Art Gallery

A portrait of William Shurniak will be added permanently to the gallery.

ASSINIBOIA – It was standing room only at the Shurniak Art Gallery on Dec. 18 for their Community Christmas Open House.

“We are talking today about Bill Shurniak and the legacy he left us here,” said Gail Mergen, Communications and Special Projects with the gallery. “We miss him, of course, but he has left us with this wonderful place, and the traditions that have come about in the course of more than 15 years now.”

The afternoon featured musical guests including famed Elvis impersonator Les Wilcock (Leslie Presley), the Elf Trio (led by Scott Heatcoat), and Amanda Blohm, who was the recipient of the William Shurniak Scholarship at last year’s local music festival. Mergen explained that Shurniak was also a great supporter of music, listing symphonies in Regina, Adelaide and Hong Kong as examples of groups he often gifted funds towards.

The pinnacle of the afternoon was a special unveiling of a portrait of Shurniak, created by Rockglen artist Neil Jones.

“Neil’s been a patron for years, and a good friend of Bill’s,” said Sandra Peutert, Administration and Finance for the gallery.

As Peutert and Jones lifted the fabric over the painting, those gathered in the gallery cheered.

“Bill was a great guy. He was one of the best guys to support the arts that I know of,” Jones said just before the portrait was unveiled. “I’m so sorry that he is gone, but his lasting legacy is here for everyone to see.”

“I’m just honoured to be able to give this to the gallery in memory of Bill.”

Assiniboia Mayor and Shurniak Gallery Board Member Sharon Schauenberg noted how impressed she was with the tribute.

“It really captures who he was; what a humble man he was,” she said.

The Shurniak Art Gallery has been an artistic oasis in Assiniboia since 2005, the culmination of its founder's goal to create a place for people to gather and enjoy art. The space features not only works from the extensive Shurniak collection, but also visiting exhibitions, literary and musical experiences. Volunteers are important to this not-for-profit, and Board Chair Heather Shurniak was on hand to present gifts to some of those long-time community members who give so freely of their time including Carolyn Henderson, Ruth Mattson, Mary Chipak, Yvonne Fender, Mildred Pomrenke, and Ruth Nekurak.

“We’re just so grateful that you were able to be here with us and show us that aspect of Saskatchewan hospitality,” Mergen said of the volunteers.

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