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Record ballots cast for 40th James Weir People’s Choice competition

A record number of ballots were cast for Weyburn Arts Council's 40th edition of the James Weir People’s Choice exhibition.

WEYBURN – A record number of ballots were cast in a year with three anniversaries being marked by the Weyburn Arts Council, including the 40th version of the James Weir People’s Choice exhibition, with a steel black panther running away as the winner.

At the reception held on Friday evening at the Weyburn Art Gallery, curator Regan Lanning noted that 2024 also marked the 60th anniversary of the Weyburn Arts Council, the first in Saskatchewan; and the 50th anniversary for the City of Weyburn’s Permanent Art Collection.

This year’s People’s Choice show was large, as it had 27 works by 27 artists, with one of the widest varieties of mediums ever, said Lanning, with 30 tours of the exhibition held, 28 of those with school classes.

A total of 1,549 ballots were cast, which is a record, compared to 643 ballots cast in the 2016 show. A total of 138 ballots were spoiled, either by not being signed, or not having three choices marked on the ballot.

First place went to Will Kohanik and his steel panther, “Pharoah”; second was Tana Cugnet with her painting, “Chickadee Trail”; and third was Colette Horack, for her stained glass creation, “A Loon and Five Friends”.

Kohanik said he spent “months and months, hundreds of hours” to create the panther, cutting all of the steel pieces, welding them together and covering the whole cat with a powder coat of paint.

He created the sculpture in his shop on 11th Street, and said it wasn’t hard to move with two guys able to lift it up into his truck.

He said he has a few plans of where he’d like “Pharoah” to end up, such as a museum in Swift Current, or an animal sanctuary in New York.

Kohanik is collecting pieces for another cat sculpture.

He said he wasn’t surprised that he won first place, as “so many people liked it” and told him they loved it.

Cugnet’s painting, acrylic on canvas, was done from a photo she took of a favourite ski trail at Kenosee Lake, and estimates she spent about 200 hours to create it.

She said she loved how still and beautiful the scene was when she took the photo, and especially loved the tree on the right side of the painting.

To create a painting with such intricate detail, Cugnet said she starts with a bigger brush to do the sky, then started to fill in with the trees, and gradually worked her way to using small tiny brushes for the really fine details of the branches.

The title of the painting was due to her including a chickadee, at the base of the tree on the right side, as a sort of hidden detail, because it’s a hardy bird native to the area.

The fact that it’s a winter scene and displays some of the beauty of Saskatchewan also endeared the scene to her.

Cugnet said she wants to keep this painting to put in the cabin at the lake, but will be making prints of it, as people have been asking her for those.

This is the third time she’s entered the People’s Choice competition, winning second before with a painting of seeding implements. Her other painting was of figure skates, but it didn’t place in the voting, and she said she’s “quite pleased” to have come in second this year.

The third place winner, Colette Horack, was not present at the reception.

Lanning noted in regard to the Permanent Art Collection, which now has about 300 pieces, she is curating a show that will be on display in the fall to commemorate its 50th year.

“Our collection is rather rare, very few communities have a collection like this,” she noted, pointing out it began in 1974 with a painting by Cornelius Kievits.