This week’s episode of the A Word is focused on the Mann Gallery in Prince Albert: there’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, they’ve just mounted their 39th annual Winter Gala exhibition, guest curated by Grant McConnell, and there’s some significant artists in that exhibition (Kathy Bradshaw, Anita Rocamora, Michel Boutin and Allan Clarke, to just name a few). With it being on the cusp of the 40th anniversary of that event that’s major to both the artistic and larger community of Prince Albert, it seemed a good time to sit down and talk to some of the staff there.
The A Word is, after all, the only visual arts themed radio show in the province: so it seemed appropriate to expand its horizons. Over the next while I’m looking to perhaps highlight significant work done by galleries in smaller urban centres like Swift Current, Estevan or perhaps Moose Jaw. Any feedback from my listeners on that is appreciated and you can hear this week’s show here.
I’d never been to one of the Winter Gala exhibitions, and was impressed by the diversity of the works. I praise this on air, as well as mentioning several artists who are new to me, and some that are more familiar. The registrar, April Sutherland, was also kind enough to walk me through their collection, and answer several of my questions. This variance and miscellany was refreshing: seeing works by Cate Francis and Michel Boutin as well as works that speak to the unique (and sometimes eccentric) nature of collecting was enjoyable.
Jesse Campbell is the relatively new Director / Curator there, continuing in the steps of Griff Baker and Brenda Barry, but also bringing her own experience and understanding to the space. She was generous enough to talk with me about some of the initiatives that are happening and some of the plans she – and her staff – have for the gallery. When we spoke, several ideas came up repeatedly: using the public engagement / investment model of the Mendel as an example of what the Mann Gallery can and should be, as well as focusing on relevant local art history as a means to define a current space. To use a familiar trope, this involves looking outside the gallery as well as within its collection: the Wolf Campaign encompasses this well.
It’s exciting to speak with someone who also has an art historical background, as notions of site and history – and how a public gallery functions within that, serving large groups that are disparate yet all relevant – are clear questions.
We spoke about an upcoming exhibition of the works of Andrée Felley-Martinson she’s curating, and how the Mann can be relevant on a variety of cultural levels, to a number of communities in Prince Albert. I was also able to talk to Emma Anderson, the curatorial intern who’s working on an upcoming exhibit of Wynona Mulcaster (April 2 to May 23). Mulcaster’s work should be familiar to you, if you live in Saskatoon: but what I’m truly looking forward to here, and this was a high point of my conversation with Emma, was that Mulcaster’s true legacy seems to be in art education. Considering the poverty and shambles we see in that space now, whether in the elementary / secondary school system or at the University of Saskatchewan, this is a timely focus. Frankly, I think I’ll be going back up to see that show: and I plan to be adding the Mann to my regular rounds of galleries and events I cover here, on the A Word.
Now, a few things I mentioned on air that I wanted to elaborate on: Friday, April 10th is the fund raiser I mentioned for The Wolf Campaign. This is a significant undertaking not just as a means to expand the public profile of the gallery, but also as a groundbreaking achievement for public art in Prince Albert (it would be worth nothing how this initiative fits within the debates we’ve had over the last year in Saskatoon about public art). The sculpture in question is familiar to me: I saw a smaller version at Darrell Bell recently.
The fundraiser is called Wolf Back A Beer – A Beer Tasting Event Fundraiser. More information will be upcoming at their web site, and there’s a variety of contact information there.
But I’d also mention that a few of the approaching shows (Ruth Cuthand, Tim Moore and the previously mentioned Andrée Felley-Martinson retrospective) are more contemporary than you’ll see in other spaces in larger centres.
The Winter Gala Exhibition runs until March 21. I’m also very curious to see how it manifests next year, for its 40th Anniversary, as its a major part of the cultural landscape in Prince Albert, and the energy and enthusiasm of the staff will undoubtably make it a noteworthy event.