by Michelle Brownridge
St. Walburg, Saskatchewan was a cultural hotspot this year during Culture Days. With a variety of activities planned throughout the Sept. 27 - 29 weekend, from interactive ceramic workshops, cake decorating, museum tours, visits to the Chuck Wagon Interpretive Centre, as well as tours and other onsite activities at the historic Imhoff Gallery, visitors had plenty of culture to see and experience.
The St. Walburg Allied Arts Council (SWAAC) was a first-time Culture Days activity organizer in 2013. Culture Days is devoted to providing Canadians with opportunities to participate in, and appreciate, all forms of arts and culture. Through an annual three-day national celebration each September, hundreds of thousands of artists and cultural organizations in hundreds of cities and towns come together and invite Canadians to participate in free interactive and “behind the scenes” activities to discover their cultural spirit and passion. Phyllis Imhoff, SWAAC member and volunteer administrator of the Imhoff Gallery in St. Walburg recently spoke to SaskCulture about the community's Culture Days experience.
SC: What would a visitor have experienced when they visited St. Walburg during Culture Days?
PI: “The Imhoff Gallery was open by special arrangement for the Culture Days weekend. The Gallery is usually closed by this time of year because it is not heated. However, for Culture Days, we purchased heaters to temporarily heat the building to facilitate a more comfortable environment for Culture Days visitors. Free tours of the Gallery were given by very energetic student tour guides. They were able to tell visitors about some of the history of Imhoff’s life and his work.
“We set up a tent to host some performing artists. We had a local band play and also brought in a German brass band from Humboldt. This was in celebration of German culture, which was the first language and native country of Mr. Imhoff. The music definitely got people dancing! We also offered free food in the form of a barbecue and refreshments.
“Many other diverse and interesting activities were organized for Culture Days in St. Walburg. It was important to us to have free, interactive, art workshops, such as painting and ceramics done by professional artists. We also offered cake decorating, which was a hit with young people. “The Chuck Wagon Interpretive Centre also has a vast display of chuck wagon artifacts that have been donated by the owners. There is so much to see in the Interpretive Centre in regards to the cowboy and chuck wagon history of St. Walburg. Many professional wagon drivers have come from St. Walburg and the surrounding area. It is great to be able to celebrate this part of our community’s heritage at the Centre.”
SC: Do you consider your Culture Days experience a success?
PI: “Yes, I would say it was a huge success simply by the number of people that took part in all the activities. Throughout the three days, in all of the venues combined, we had a total of 911 participants. Our Culture Days events were for all ages - young, old and in between. We made sure no one age group was left out. I think that helped contribute to the success of Culture Days in St. Walburg.”
SC: What about Culture Days was valuable or positive for the Imhoff Gallery and the SWAAC?
PI: “For the Gallery, it was wonderful that so many people came to visit and learned about Mr. Imhoff and his contribution to the arts in Saskatchewan. Culture Days created interest in the art gallery. Many people, some of whom were locals who have lived close by for years, had never taken the time to stop and find out what the Gallery is all about.
“None of the students we hired to give tours in the gallery throughout the weekend had ever been there before. It was interesting to see their initial reaction, which was not much different from any other visitors that just happen to discover our Gallery is full of paintings. It is always a reaction of great amazement and excitement. They were so excited to be able to take visitors on tour. This is very positive for us at the Gallery. Every year, the Imhoff Heritage society hires a summer student and it is reassuring to know that there are interested young people out there who are keen to work in this area.
“For the SWAAC, it was also a very positive experience. Celebrating Culture Days helped all of our new members realize how valuable it is to have an arts council in our town and to see how so much can be accomplished by a few people working well together. This past spring, the SWAAC was planning to shut down completely. It seemed such a shame that an organization such as this, should be allowed to die out. Eventually, the right people who were interested in, and concerned about, maintaining the arts council were able to come together. Rather than shut down, SWAAC is now revitalized with new members and a new executive.”
SC: Do you have any advice for first time Culture Days activity organizers?
PI: “We didn’t get working on our Culture Days plans until May. Although we seemed to do very well in a short period of time, I think it may be better to start thinking about next year's Culture Days a little earlier.
“Also, don’t be afraid to ask for either financial or in-kind donations. We managed to raise a good amount of funds (besides the grant we received from SaskCulture) through corporate sponsorship and local donations. Some of the grocery stores in Lloydminster were very generous. Sobey's donated ten dozen hotdog buns. One of the Tim Horton’s donated two days’ worth of coffee including all the cups, sugar, cream and stir sticks! This is just two examples, there were more in-kind donations like this.”
SC: Do you plan on participating in Culture Days next year?
PI: “If the majority of arts council members are in favor of doing something again for 2014 Culture Days, then we will. Some members are already talking about what we can do next year, so it sounds likely to me that we will be participating again.”
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