Artist-in-residence had an eventful tenure in Estevan

Diana Chisholm’s tenure as the artist-in-residence for the Estevan Arts Council proved to be an eventful one, as she spent many hours in the community by leading workshops, organizing events and doing anything she could to promote culture in the Energy City.

Chisholm was back in Estevan last week to serve as the adjudicator for the Estevan Arts Council’s Ev Johnson Memorial Adjudicated Art Show. She studied the submissions and provided feedback for each of the artists, before selecting North Portal’s Sheila Farstad as the top entry.

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It essentially capped her tenure as the artist-in-residence, but Chisholm had already moved to Regina to be the assistant visual and media arts co-ordinator for the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils (OSAC). 

She took the job in August after she had used up all of her community outreach hours in Estevan.

“This was a really good learning experience,” she said in an interview with Lifestyles. “I worked with quite a few different people, so that was nice, and I got quite a bit of work of my own done.”

She led a snow sculpture workshop in early January, which she said was a lot of fun, since her background is in sculpture. Chisholm also loved working with the residents of long-term care at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

“I got to go up to the hospital quite a bit to do different activities with the residents up there,” said Chisholm. “It was really wonderful. It was a small group of people but it was a lot of fun to try different things and experiment.”

She also worked with other long-term care homes in the city.

Chisholm also spent time with the Visions Art Guild, and she applauded those artists for being so welcoming.

“I feel like I’ve made a few art friends that I will carry with me along the way,” said Chisholm.

She also offered programs in the local schools, and partnered with a variety of organizations to offer art-themed activities.

The 2016 Saskatchewan Summer Games proved to be a unique experience as well. It was a busy week that required a lot of hard work, but it was also a lot of fun, as she had several events in the community. Chisholm noted there aren’t many artists-in-residence who get to be in a community at the same time as a Saskatchewan Games.

“I think this is one of the first times that culture was included right from the beginning in terms of planning,” said Chisholm. “I grew up playing sports, and I guess my athletic life and my art life don’t always overlap, so it was a unique experience for me in that sense.”

Athletes who were in town for the Games were encouraged to share their pictures for a photo collage. Chalk logos were painted at the EAGM to celebrate the different sports offered during the Games. And she was involved with the drop-in crafts the arts council offered for children throughout the week.

But due to the amount of time she dedicated to the Games, it used up the remaining hours allocated for her community outreach.

The community outreach hours added up very quickly, she said.

“I think Estevan does have a very active arts community, in that the art gallery and the library do a fair amount of arts programming,” said Chisholm. “I was able to go to schools and places like long-term care and Creighton Lodge, and do a couple of camps.”

The time she dedicated to coming up with ideas and planning activities also ate into her community outreach hours.

An artist-in-residence also has to dedicate time to their own studio practice. Since Chisholm was so busy planning community events, it was hard to find time to develop her own work.

“It’s an interesting thing, in terms of trying to do studio practice when there’s mornings and evenings and weekends with community outreach,” said Chisholm.

Chisholm also had an installation work inside the project space at the EAGM, giving her a chance to present her work to the local community.

“I have a body of photographic work from my time in Estevan up at the St. Thomas Moore Gallery in Saskatoon,” said Chisholm.

She has also been able to research and plan future projects.

There had been talk of extending her term for another year, but Chisholm noted the Saskatchewan Arts Board likes to shift artist-in-residence grants around the province, rather than keeping them in the same community.

So she is instead working with OSAC on the visual arts side. OSAC puts together five exhibits each year, featuring artists from across the province, through their Art on the Move program. Those exhibits tour the province for up to two years.

Meanwhile, her partner, David Dyck, is the sculptor technician at Memorial University’s Grenfell campus in Cornerbrook, N.L., which just happens to be her alma mater.

Dyck worked as the associate curator at the EAGM during Chisholm’s tenure as artist-in-residence. He is from Estevan originally, and still has family and friends in the city, which helped her adjust to life in Estevan.

“There’s a portion of the community that’s a little transient, and we are, for all intents and purposes, as artists, a little bit transient ourselves, so we’ve been getting to know a few communities.

“I guess the unfortunate part of working contracts is that usually you have to go just when you get to know a community. But it was nice to have some family and friends upon arrival.”

But she is happy to now be working with OSAC, and pleased that she will be able to remain in Saskatchewan.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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