Southwest Sask. artist display talents

Kyle artist Milan Gerza talks about his carved and painted wood artworks during the Summer Salon public reception, July 27.

The current exhibition at the Art Gallery of Swift Current presents a selection of work by professional artists living in southwest Saskatchewan.

The Summer Salon is hosted every few years by the gallery as a way to represent the work of professional artists from the region.

“It’s a way to present a survey of the professional artists from around southwest Saskatchewan and a kind of check-in with them and to have them present some of their latest work,” Art Gallery Director and Curator Kim Houghtaling said. “It gives those artists an opportunity to be in a local public show, even though a number of them are involved in solo exhibitions or smaller group shows or are showing in other places around the province.”

The exhibition features the work of 30 artists, and the works in the show vary from paintings and drawings to ceramics, photography and mixed media assemblages.

“Being able to bring them together in one show is really quite exciting and interesting, because the calibre of work is really high,” he said. “We’ve grown to be a bit familiar with what these artists have been doing over these years, and you get a nice refreshing taste of what they’re doing these days.”

Visitors to the exhibition will also see works by several artists who are featured for the first time in the Summer Salon. It is a curated exhibition and artists are invited to participate in the Summer Salon.

“All these artists were invited based on their reputation and their ability and what level they’re working at,” he said. “With some of the works we were able to meet with the artist and discuss works that were going to be submitted. In other cases, the artist made submissions based on what they wanted to be in the show and we haven’t had to question any of those submissions either. It’s largely what the artists feel really strongly about, and what they have available and want to put in the show. That’s the starting point, and then input from curators are more about how to present them and how to bring the exhibition together.”

The previous Summer Salon took place in 2014 during the celebration of Swift Current’s centennial as a city. Houghtaling felt 2019 will be a good opportunity to host another Summer Salon as a cultural component during the Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, when thousands of visitors are coming to the city during August.

“What we want to show those visitors is the art that’s being made in this area, and introduce them to some of the artists that are working here,” he said. “I think they’re going to be impressed really. These are really good quality work, and they’ll also be impressed by the diversity.”

Artists have various reasons for choosing southwest Saskatchewan as a place to live and practice their art.

“They want the small-town environment or rural setting for their living experience and their inspiration, but it’s also an inexpensive opportunity for artists,” he said. “Living in larger centres cost more and that affects the cost of making art. Artists are attracted to the rural situation, but it also does isolate them to a certain extent. So it’s important that the galleries and the curators that are in those areas really do represent and find opportunities for their artists.”

Houghtaling therefore believes the Art Gallery of Swift Current has a responsibility to provide artists in the region with an opportunity to exhibit their work.

“Artists make their own opportunities and then galleries like the Art Gallery of Swift Current have to try and make opportunities for them as well, and having the gallery here and being able to present work by our region’s artists is what helps make the scene vibrant,” he said. “That’s where we connect with the audience, but these artists really have worked hard at finding their own sort of dynamic and situation where they can communicate with audiences or make sales.”

A good measure of the vibrancy of the art scene in southwest Saskatchewan is the growing size of the Summer Salon over the years.

“We’ve had salons where it would be a dozen artists and 24 artists, maybe something like that,” he said. “This year 30 artists. We’ve even got an increase in the number of artists that are ready to participate in something like this. So that’s interesting too. Things are growing as well, which is fun. A development is happening, and I think it’s because of the strengths of the area, the opportunities for living and working here for artists. The fact that they are making work and can be part of exhibitions is adding to that vibrancy.”

The Summer Salon continues until Sept. 1. Admission to the exhibition is free. The gallery is open Monday to Thursday from 1-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., and Friday to Sunday from 1-5 p.m. It is closed on statutory holidays.

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