‘Drawn from Words’ reception celebrates more than the legacy of John V. Hicks

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald (L to R) Lynda Monahan, exhibit curator Jesse Campbell and George Glenn participated in an artists talk at the 'Drawn from Words' opening reception on Saturday at the John V. Hicks Gallery in the Margo Fournier Arts Centre.

Local art lovers celebrated more than just the legacy of John V. Hicks  at the opening reception for ‘Drawn from Words’ on Saturday.

The new exhibit drew a large crowd to the Margo Fournier Arts Centre gallery, with attendees eager to celebrate Hicks’ legacy, and also to hear from his friends: noted Prince Albert artist George Glenn and poet Lynda Monahan.

Exhibit Curator Jesse Campbell served as emcee and also led the artist’s talk with Glenn and eventually Monahan, who read selected works of Hicks’ poetry. Campbell said the attendance was memorable.

“It’s always special for me, honestly, if it’s one person in attendance or if it’s 50 in attendance,” she said. “I think we’re closer to 50 today because it shows me that people value the arts and I do find that when there is a local artist … there’s such interest.”

While the discussion began with views on Hicks’ work, it expanded to include works from Glenn and Monahan.

Campbell said the aim is to have a richer artistic community.

“One of the goals of gathering like this, where we’re having a conversation about the art and with the artist, is that the experience of the artworks will be elevated for people who can make it to the reception,” she explained.

“It’s hard to put into words what it means because it, but it makes for a richer artistic community.”

The reception included an engaged audience who questioned both Glenn and Monahan and people reading from Hicks’ work. Campbell said it was heart-warming to have a room full of people who were so engaged and interested.

“Sometimes I feel bad like I’m cutting off the conversation too early because I know it’s rich,” she said. “But, it also is a testament to George and Lynda and John Hicks and their presence in the community and the social and artistic circles that they have nurtured.”

The entire show happened on the fly because of a special future exhibit in 2025 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of George coming to work in Prince Albert. Campbell and Glenn were making plans for the exhibit, and Glenn found the work in a studio crawlspace.

“Well, there is a bit of serendipity involved, a really good serendipity, a good dose this time,” Campbell said.

She explained that earlier this year she was on one of her studio visits of which there will be several in preparation for the event. The goal of those visits is to go through all of an artists work, including things like sketchbooks from the early 1970s.

Campell said that during a routine visit, Glenn pulled out several boxes to go through.

“We’re going through little notes, going through letters. We’re going through newspaper articles and publications about him, and then of course going through the meat of the stuff, the drawings, the paintings, the mixed media works,” Campbell explained.

“In one of the boxes there were these drawings and we flipped through them and they were the drawings for covers of a selection of John Hicks books.”

The exhibit covers the books Overheard by Conifers, Sticks and Strings and Monk’s Mind. Campbell said that the really difficult part of curating is that you have to edit out work. 

“In thinking of a fairly monumental exhibition to acknowledge this 50 years here, I’m thinking a lot about the work. What is important to include? What kind of picture—pardon the pun—do we want to give of George through his artwork? I’ve been making notes on the various pieces,” Campbell said.

Campbell explained that she drew it out using notepads and charts to map out the anniversary exhibit and came across the three series of drawings. She said that they made a great impact on her mind.

“I thought, gosh, how are we going to possibly show these three series of works? I think in total there’s almost 60 or 70 works that I was going from here. How am I going to include that with 49 more years of work?’” Campbell said.

The serendipity continued as she talked with Mann Art Gallery acting curator Lana Wilson and discovered there was an opening at the Hicks Gallery because of a cancellation in April.

“I thought, ‘well, there’s a wonderful series here,’” Campbell said.

The show coincides with National Poetry Month and the 25th anniversary of Hicks’ passing. Campbell then began to delve deeper into the work of Hicks and looking at the drawings. The concept was pitched to the Prince Albert Council for the Arts and the Mann Art Gallery.

“I proposed the show and it took off in a couple of weeks, so this was quick, quick curating,” Campbell said. “But you know, sometimes it’s good when it’s quick because you get right to it. You don’t think too much about other things, for better or for worse and then it happens and it comes together.”

The smaller exhibit emerged from the larger planned exhibit and showed something more.

“It also shows the broader artistic community,” Campbell said. “We’re showing some examples of how that artistic exchange happened amongst different folks. But I know there’s many other instances of that occurring,” Campbell said.

Hicks did that himself by ringing the bell at the Arts Centre every day for tea and according to George in his art talk, having coffee with George in the morning to talk shop.

“It gives insight into the importance of this building being a place where artists could come, where they could gather, where those ideas were exchanged, and where they had that artistic community, rather than working 100 per cent in isolation,” Campbell said.

Campbell thanked the Prince Albert Council for the Arts for their support and for also making the Hicks Gallery an active space.

The exhibit is also supported by grants from SK Arts and the City of Prince Albert’s Municipal Cultural Action Plan and Event Microgrant.

‘Drawn from Words’ runs until May 23 at the Margo Fournier Arts Centre.