Now in its 37th year, the show collects pieces from throughout the province and submits them for appraisal by a distinguished juror from the art world.
“It’s an opportunity for local artists to enter and exhibit their work,” artist and Mann Art Gallery board chair Donna McKeand Smith said.
“It covers quite a large area of northern Saskatchewan and a lot of entries, and it’s a real learning experience. The juror does a tour … after and speaks about the different pieces of work.”
This year’s juror is University of Saskatchewan art professor Alison Norlen. She is expected to give a talk and enjoy a walkthrough tour of the artwork on Saturday, Feb. 9.
A gala opening reception will be held for members of the general public on Friday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m.
The annual art show first began 37 years ago as an outgrowth of the Winter Festival. Local artists wanted a concurrent event that would help showcase their latest work.
Current gallery volunteer and former curator Della Pereverzoff played a key role in the show’s early years and has seen first-hand the changes that have taken place to the show and the gallery over the decades.
“We have a paid gallery staff now, which we didn’t have for years,” she said.
“It was 12 of us ladies that volunteered, and we would book the shows and we really were not trained to do any of that. But we learned as we went along.”
Today, when the sums of money involved in running the gallery are much greater, training is mandatory for gallery staff, who undertake workshops to familiarize them with their duties.
Pereverzoff also noted changes in the artwork featured at the show each year.
“We’ve got a lot more entries from other places, and of course I think some of the quality of the art has improved,” she said. “Maybe it’s because we’ve seen different types of art.”
Some of the more unique work dropped off Sunday included charcoal drawings and ink-on-birchbark pieces by McKeand Smith, who has been a practicing visual artist for almost three decades.
It’s an opportunity for local artists to enter and exhibit their work. - Donna McKeand Smith
To create her pieces, McKeand Smith dips a nib pen in ink and draws on small pieces of birchbark that she uses as paper.
“I only use birchbark that I’ve found that’s naturally dead in the forest,” she said. “I never take (it) off a living tree. That would be awful. So then I peel the bark and every layer is a different colour. Usually people think of birchbark as white, the outer layer, and then you peel it, but you can’t peel it too thin.
“I peel it and I press it to make sure it lays flat. And that’s usually why my pieces are so small, is they’re easier to press than a big piece. A big piece is hard to come by when you’re peeling because it rips … I peel it, press it and then just go from there and just draw on it.”
McKeand Smith specializes in drawing landscapes, since there is often a congruence between the natural features of the bark and the scenes she conjures in her mind.
For example, a piece of birchbark will often appear to have ripples, which McKeand Smith uses to draw lake scenes. In other instances, a small round hole in the bark might be used to represent the sun.
The artist first began drawing on birchbark around 20 years ago.
“It was an accident,” she said. “My brother had some birch firewood and I was visiting, and I peeled some off and took it home … Next morning, having my cup of coffee, I grabbed a pen and I started and I thought, ‘Oh, I like this.’”
When drawing landscapes, McKeand Smith does not base her work on real life scenes.
Describing a piece called Ambience, she noted, “It’s a lake scene, and it’s nowhere in particular. It’s just somewhere in my mind.”
The Winter Festival Juried Art Show & Sale attracts an average of 120 artists and more than 200 pieces of artwork each season.