Coming together as friends

The 2017 Prince ALbert Arts Hall of Fame Inductees pose for a photo. From left to right, representing Prince Albert Council for the Arts (in the group category), co-chairs Annette Nieman and Lorraine Brokop, Builder inductee Mitch Holash and Volunteer inductee Teena Polle. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Arts Hall of Fame Ceremony a chance to reflect on community’s support and passion for the arts

Saturday night was a night to honour builders, volunteers and organizations dedicated to the arts.

The annual Prince Albert Arts Hall of Fame Induction Gala was held that night, on the stage of the E.A. Rawlinson Centre for the Arts.

But what was intended as a night to celebrate three notable contributors to the local arts scene became something much more. It became a celebration of the Prince Albert community and of the arts family.

This year’s inductees included the Prince Albert Council for the Arts, which built the groundwork for the bustling arts environment we have today; volunteer Teena Polle, who can be seen at just about every show ever held at the Rawlinson; and builder Mitch Holash, who was instrumental in the construction and early operation of the Rawlinson Centre itself.

“There is fantastic energy in the room tonight,” said Cheryl Ring, a local potter who introduced the Council for the Arts. “It’s the coming together of the many parts that form a commanding presence in Prince Albert – the arts community.”

Fittingly, the Council for the Arts has been around for 50 years, and celebrated that milestone with the induction ceremony Saturday. Even the other inductees spoke about how much the council has contributed to Prince Albert.

“One thing I know for sure, art changes lives,” Ring said.

“Whether you are a maker of art or an art tourist collecting gems to satisfy an innate need to surround oneself with beauty, art changes lives. Everyone in this room tonight has contributed to nourishing our local art community For that I thank you and salute you. Thank you Prince Albert Council for the Arts.”

Local artist Cheryl Ring speaks at the 2017 Prince Albert Arts Hall of Fame induction ceremony on September 30, 2017. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Holash also spoke about the council’s contributions.

“The Prince Albert Council for the Arts has a long and storied history in this community encouraging and fostering the artistic enterprise and appreciation of … artistic talent in days long before there was an arts board,” he said.

“The council has been a bedrock and foundation for all community building done in the arts. All that’s been done in more recent years owed substantially, considerably to your enterprise the legacy of the arts council is wonderful.”

Prince Albert Council for the Arts co-chairs Lorraine Brokop (left) and Annette Nieman (middle) pose with Arts Board chair Roxanne Dicke during the 2017 Prince Albert Arts Hall of Fame induction ceremony. (Peter Lozinski)

Next up was Polle. Polle was a long-time volunteer member of the Prince Albert Arts Board. She helped get the Rawlinson centre built, and once it opened, has faithfully and enthusiastically volunteered for shows of all kinds.

“She’s everywhere,” said Arts Board chair Roxanne Dicke. “it doesn’t mater where you go. There’s Teena. I’ve seen her manage incredible crowds and not even break a sweat. She doesn’t do it because she wants to be recognized, which is exactly why we should be recognizing her. She is a true gift to our city. Volunteers make the world go round. Volunteers like Teena are hard to find.”

It took Polle a while to even consider herself a worthy recipient.

“A friend told me that since this is the first ever awad in the volunteer category, I should call myself the lucky trailblazer,” Polle said.

“Throughout my life I have been blessed with love of music, song and performance. I applaud all those many individuals and businesses for making the Rawlinson centre become the heart of the community, and best of all, opening the door for volunteers to flourish.”

The night was extra special for Polle, who had a friend come all the way from San Antonio for the ceremony. They found each other in eighth grade through the pen pal section of their church Sunday school paper.

“After my nomination was made, she was the first one to email back and say ‘I’ll be there,’” Polle said.

“To me, that was really a true sign of friendship. It was a real highlight to have her present.”

Prince Albert Arts Hall of Fame inductee Teena Polle listens to remarks during the night of her induction on September 30, 2017. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

While it took Polle a while to acknowledge herself worthy of the hall of fame honour, others, like fellow inductee Holash, had no such trouble.

“You couldn’t have made a more perfect selection for the hall of fame,” he said. “She has volunteered at every level of artistic performance in this community. Teena, you embody the very best of the spirit of the arts and the community of Prince Albert we embrace and cherish here.”

Like Polle, Holash initially had some reservations about his induction into the hall of fame.

“I was very pleased, but a little embarrassed, because I know the project I’m being associated with was something done not by one person, but by a great number of people, a wonderful team of people,” he said.

Holash was the first chair of the arts board when it was formed in 1995. He faced a huge task, and a controversial one.

“We knew our first order of business was creating something that had proven impossible by several early initiatives,” he said.

“We were challenged by then-mayor Don Cody and some of our other divided city council, to embrace and carry forward a very controversial and divisive community priority. We were to create, on a shoestring, and in a politically charged and  fiscally challenged environment, a state of the art visual and performing arts centre.”

That project would become the Rawlinson Centre. It was fitting, then, that Holash’s induction came on the stage of the facility he worked so hard to build.

“This is my favourite place,” Holash said.

MItch Holash speaks at his induction into the Prince Albert Arts Hall of Fame on September 30, 2017. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

“I climbed in my sorrels up 80 feet to the temporary roof of the fly tower in this place before it had any walls. In this building I’ve watched my children and bride perform, and I’ve even challenged myself on stage a couple of times. We have hosted a prime minister and a prince in this building, and we’ve buried a very dear, dear friend from this building. This is the building, unfortunately my mother never got to see, but whose picture is carried in my father’s jacket pocket at every single performance he has ever been at.

“(My wife) and I celebrate this place as a success of very many friends. My family is forever indebted to all of you, and to this community, for what we have built here.”

That thing the community has built is more than just a building. That was evident Saturday night. It is a family that lives for the arts.

“It was a beautiful evening put together by the Prince Albert Arts Board,” said Lorraine Brokop, Prince Albert Council for the Arts co-chair.

“I think the honour is empowering to the arts community and to us as individuals who volunteer on a regular basis. We’ve tried to put the emphasis on community development. It’s not often we get a big group like this together in a celebratory mode. You can feel the energy and the smiles are abundant. We provided tonight that we need to continue this momentum.

Charlotte Cabaniss, Polle’s friend from San Antonio, was blown away by the community spirit she saw Saturday night.

“I came because Teena was going to be honoured, but I’m going away with a love for this city. I now love Prince Albert, because of what people do to make the community a giving one, a performing one, to give joy. I saw the very best of people tonight.”

Holash, in his impassioned speech, may have said it best. He referenced the plaque installed when the Rawlinson Centre was opened.

It reads: “We leave this legacy in faith that our children and friends will treasure here the quality of the human spirit and dance through life.”

“My family thanks you tonight for sharing this honour,” Holash said.

“And especially, for what we’ve accomplished here in Prince Albert, as friends.”