Saturday night’s Prince Albert Arts Hall of Fame induction ceremony was about celebrating more than just the four inductees.
Over two hours, three individuals and one theatre company were called on stage to be rewarded for their contributions and builders and practitioners of the arts. While everyone was there to celebrate the inductees, the inductees were there to celebrate everyone else.
“We have a very modest group tonight, and there I something in the sincerity with which they give their gifts and have given their gifts to this community that is very profound,” said past inductee Mitch Holash, who served as master of ceremonies.
While each of the inductees was being honoured for one aspect of their artistic journeys, each of them could have been welcomed in more than one category.
Margreet van Walsem was recognized for her skills as an artist, but she laid the groundwork for the thriving visual arts community present today. Paul Lomheim went in as a builder for his work producing major local events, though he’s also known as a talented guitarist. Hervée Vallé was welcomed for his work in stained glass and lapidary, though he also teaches both arts to a new generation of creators. Odyssey Productions was welcomed as a theatre company but helped grow theatre in the city.
“Shows like this are important to acknowledge all of these different individuals who have so many impacts on our life,” said Richard Ahenakew, who introduced Lomheim.
“Some of the names mentioned here are strong community leaders who do so much for so many people. There are people who lead in different ways. Paul (Lomheim) is one of many people who do this kind of work. That’s why these award shows are so important, recognizing all of these individuals who do so much for us. Sometimes, we all forget to say thank you.”
Lomheim’s induction was punctuated by a performance from singer Heidi Monroe, accompanied by Dennis Adams on guitar.
Lomheim was followed by Vallée, who earned a standing ovation for his speech.
“I think this is an awesome evening,” he said.
‘Thank you to everyone who has contributed. I’m very thankful that in this city we have an arts board and arts council Artists stick to themselves. People don’t get to know them because they’re creating and not out on the street, out in the newspapers advertising their goods.”
Vallée reflected on his artistic journey and practice, and the talent he sees around him. Vallée said he likes to learn everything he can about the properties of materials, and then explore those properties to shape them into different things. From that, he gains great joy, a joy he tries to pass on.
“I feel joy, I feel accomplishment, I feel achievement, and I want people to feel that same enjoyment,” he said.
“I want to thank the city for having arts and culture because it helps the artists, but it also helps the city. It helps the community. It tells other people who we are — what we are. We beautify our city. We popularize our culture. We tell people we can do wonderful and amazing things.”
Vallée said it’s easy to praise the big names on the T.V. or think about artists we don’t know. He said it’s often harder to recognize the beauty and talent all around us.
“Sometimes we fail to see what’s going on,” he said.
“Because we know somebody, they’re ordinary people, we feel their work doesn’t have as much value. I’d like to change that.”
Evening special for van Walsem family
For the Van Walsem family, Saturday night’s celebration provided an opportunity to look back on Margreet’s work and contributions during her short, but busy, time in Prince Albert.
Margreet arrived in P.A. in 1973. She died in 1979. But in those short six years, she attracted artists to Prince Albert, collaborated with some of the province’s top talents, started the juried winter festival show and sale and served as the president for the council for the arts.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic, I think it’s thrilling, I think it’s amazing,” said Ethel Struthars, one of van Walsem’s daughters.
“The time mom spent here … was a very thrilling time.”
Carin van Walsem, Ethel’s sister, had similar thoughts.
“The evening was amazing. It was an honour. It keeps mom’s contribution to Prince Albert and the community alive.”
Ethel said part of the reason her mother’s legacy is still well-known is thanks to the work of Carin, and of their father, Jan, who has carefully catalogued all of his late wife’s work.
“My wife worked so hard,” Jan said.
“Her life was art. She gave everything to help other people with it.”
He said he was pleased to see how much the winter festival had grown since it was first started.
“It means she was on the right track, and that Prince Albert is on the right track by promoting the arts, as we heard tonight.”
Promoting the arts, and the people who do them, was a prominent theme of the evening, especially for the theatre community, which came out to support Odyssey Productions.
In her speech, Odyssey president Kim Morrall thanked the theatre companies that predated them, Prince Albert Community Players (PACP) and Upshot, as well as the ones that exist in P.A. today: PACP, Spark and Smokescreen.
She thanked everyone who goes to the shows, and everyone who helps produce the shows, from the actors to the backstage help to the producers.
She then read a letter from one of the group’s founders, Darrel Lindenbach.
“No dream is too huge to accomplish, and the people around you can do so much more than you ever thought possible if you just give them the chance,” he wrote.
Morrall wasn’t the only one to cite someone else in her speech. Vallée did too, quoting “we have a duty to delight,” a sentiment attributed to Dorothy Day.
But Jan Van Walsem just relied on his years of experience, to sum up the evening.
“If we can encourage or promote people, and give them the possibility to show their work, and ensure it is seen, then they come to life.”