Prince Albert Arts Hall of Fame Welcomes 2020-2021 Inductees
Community leaders, artists, family and friends gathered on Friday June 10th to celebrate the 2020 and 2021 Inductees of the Prince Albert Arts Hall of Fame. The gala was held on the stage of the EA Rawlinson Centre for the Arts.
With COVID sidelining the event for the past two years, the celebration was overdue. With recent world events it has become even more apparent that the arts are not just the collective "niceties" of life, they are necessary for healthy, thriving, and hopeful communities.
From an inductee that celebrates the culture of a country a world away that is currently experiencing violent attempts to erase it, to a local culture that has suffered the same attempts in the past century, to a visual artist whose works seem to remind all who see them that beauty is found in the simplest items; in an unintentional way, this series of inductees are a commentary of the times we're celebrating them in.
Which is what art has always done.
The event was initially scheduled for early February, with "For The Love Of The Arts" as the theme. Even after the date was moved back until June the theme held, and our choice of MCs were "lovebirds:" 2017 Arts Hall of Fame inductee Mitch Holash and former teacher Sheila Holash.
Over a meal catered by My Place Coffeehouse, Bistro and Catering, diners enjoyed live music from Darcy Sander and Mike Langlois, another staple of this event we were so pleased to have return this year.
Sturgeon Lake First Nation's Ironswing Singers ushered in the inductees and representatives to begin the evening with a spirited and moving performance.
The 2020 Inductee in the Performing Arts cateogry, the Barveenok Ukrainian Dance Club, was represented by Marcia Coulic-Salahub, who reiterated the core idea of community and family that is a keystone of Ukrainian culture and identity. As we watch the news now we feel compelled to hold tight to Ukrainian traditions, to protect the rich and colourful character that is a large part of Saskatchewan's cultural fabric.
Kayleigh Skomorowski, current chair of the Barveenok Board of Directors, accepted the reward on behalf of an organization that has been officially operational in Prince Albert since 1978. Its dance programs and events have been the constant reinstallation of Ukrainian cultural tradition, and an outlet of exercise, friendship, and teamwork for so many youth throughout its long history.
The first 2021 Inductee was awarded posthumously. Tia Furstenberg from the Mann Art Gallery spoke on behalf of nominator Jesse Campbell and shared the life and history of Andrée Felley-Martinson, inducted in the Visual Artist category. As the story unfolded we were left to only imagine how a woman who grew up in the Swiss Alps found life on the prairies of Saskatchewan; the shock was enough to keep Andrée from painting for ten years. But as people often do, a love of art meant Andrée was able to find family and friends with the people sporting the same paint-covered hands and appreciation for the world around them. Once again we were reminded how lucky we are to live in a place where we can enjoy a rich love of artistic expression, with a deep desire to keep that facet of culture thriving.
The statuette was accepted by Marcus Miller and Lana WIlson of the Mann Art Gallery, as friends and family of Andrée (including a large contingent of 2018 Hall of Fame inductee Margreet van Walsem's family) wiped tears from their eyes. We were reminded of the meaningful friendships that artist collectives forge, a different kind of family that supports and drives us to excel and express.
During a short break Prince Albert Arts Board member Kevin Joseph performed an acoustic set which was incredibly poignant as the next induction would be his sister.
Under the Builder of the Arts category, the Hall of Fame welcomed 2021 inductee Sheryl Kimbley. She was introduced by her older brother Richard Ahenakew. Sibling pride has rarely been more apparent than it was hearing Richard describing his sister as a time traveler, or someone who was able to see the future. Sheryl's love for the arts seemed to be a gift that she did enjoy through music and song, but as time passed it became apparent that the performing arts had to be an avenue for youth to find a voice and a place in their communities. It is a channel for healing hurts, a way to sort out confusion for people who begin to lose their path.
Surrounded by her family, from her parents to her newest grandson and almost everyone in between, the full capacity for love was only touched on in the grand scope of what Sheryl Kimbley's ambition can do. Sheryl's family has grown over the years to included dozens (and more likely hundreds) of youth who didn't know they could speak with their own voice, or that their lives, thoughts, worries, and pains had validity. The casts of many Northern Spirits Showcases and Voices of the North shows have felt the love and care of a devoted mother through Sheryl Kimbley. These events are more than a place for a good singing voice to perform, they're the home of support and encouragement for so many.
Sheryl Kimbley's speech as she accepted the induction was incredibly moving. As those who knew her listened (probably with doubt initially - I know I did), Sheryl explained that her drive was fueled by selfishness. While we can debate if selfishness "on behalf of family" is truly selfish by definition, Sheryl continued to explain that a home and a way to express themselves is how we can save the lives of youth, especially northern youth.
Sheryl's success isn't told by the many awards she's received thus far. It will be told by other quiet voices finding volume, injustices being called out (at the very least), and tables finding room for those who have been left out. If it seems the longest part of this article has been about Sheryl Kimbley it's because, in her own words, the message of the entire night was summarized. "All voices deserve to be heard."
It's true of the fractures of culture that are finally being admitted and examined in Canada, it's true of the attempted fracture of Ukrainian culture, and it's true of people who use art to express how they feel about where they live, what their lives have been. And the love of the arts extends to those of us lucky to know such people; the artists, the facilitators, and the patrons. The forces of nature, the misfits, the generous souls who recognize the importance of arts and culture and work to develop opportunities.
Closing remarks by Prince Albert Arts Board Chair Adreanna Boucher expressed the gratitude of the whole room. We don't love art strictly for recognition and escapism, although that can't be dismissed. We have love for the arts because it's the bridge between past and future; the good and the bad of history, and the hope that determines a bright future for everyone.
You can view the videos for the inductees on the Prince Albert Arts Hall Of Fame website. Or click the year below.
The Prince Albert Arts Board would like to thank the sponsors of the 2020-2021 Hall of Fame Induction Gala:
And a huge thank you as well to the staff and volunteers of the EA Rawlinson Centre for the Arts
June 11, 2022
written by Cara Stelmaschuk
Prince Albert Arts Board Vice-Chair