Winter Festival Art Show and Sale guest curator excited for challenge

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Wally Dion, the guest curator for the 47th Prince Albert Winter Festival Art Show and Sale discussed a painting on Thursday afternoon.

The guest curator for the 47th Winter Festival Art Show and Sale is eagerly anticipating the opening of this year’s exhibit.

Curator Wally Dion has spent Wednesday and Thursday curating the 140 pieces of art delivered to the Mann Art Gallery in preparation for the event. Artists dropped off their pieces on the week of Jan. 25 and Dion has spent time organizing them thematically ahead of the opening.

Dion is a painter, drawer and sculptor, and said that he was happy to join other artists he respects in Saskatchewan as a curator for the show.

“I think it’s relevant that artists curated this versus curators,” Dion said. “The curator is kind of an academic or an administrator or some kind of construct.”

Dion arrived in Prince Albert on Wednesday and worked late into the night before returning Thursday.

This year’s show has the largest number of pieces since organizers moved to a “one piece per artist” rule.

“I think this show is exciting because it gives me a chance to see and sample other people’s personalities and their tastes and what they feel is important,” Dion explained. “What people choose to paint and present, it’s taking some care and having deliberate intention to the point of intentionally pick a pick a piece to show.”

Dion lives and works in Upstate New York, but was born in Saskatoon. Galleries across Canada and the U.S. have displayed his work. The most recent were an individual show at the University of Saskatchewan’s College Art Galleries, and a group show at the Wanuskewin Gallery in Saskatoon. Both shows were in 2022.

Dion explained that people have to be deliberate in choosing which pieces to show because sometimes their favourite and their best work can be different, depending on the time. He credits everyone who submitted a piece for stepping out of their comfort zone.

“People don’t like rejection, so people are taking a little bit of a risk by submitting to the show,” he said. “They’re putting themselves out there and they’re wanting people to see their work and they’re wanting to sort of promote themselves, so you can get a feeling of fear as well.”

He added that people want to be part of the art world and part of the discussion, and that creates an excitement around evens like the Prince Albert Winter Festival Arts Show.

“You kind of feel that energy,” he said.

Dion has already started placing art pieces where he believes they belong, thematically.

“After you spend time with the work and then the space, I find a way of telling that story and transition and moving things thematically,” he explained. “(It’s) separating things and (seeing) what makes sense together or doesn’t make sense or what two pieces are speaking to each other.”

One section he had already set aside were landscapes or outdoor pieces.

“I’m going to present these with the horizon line in mind, sort of like a landscape painting,” he said. Generally, people are always talking about the line that goes across where the line from the land separates the land of the sky that’s coming over the horizon line, so I’m going to hang all of these with the horizon line.”

On a wall facing the other landscapes are a different type of landscape by artist Leah Dorion.

“It’s a different kind of perspective of thinking about the land like Turtle Island. Whereas these are all always generally have the land, the roads or the fields or even this patchwork of land,” Dion said.

The Prince Albert Arts Board (PAAB) in partnership with the Mann Art Gallery is presenting an Artist Talk with Dion on Friday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. This event is the first of the PAAB’s Parts for the Arts event series throughout the year.

“I was going to talk, I think about my practice and what I my paintings and my circuit board art work and maybe some of my adventures and disadvantage or both,” Dion said.

The Prince Albert Winter Festival Art Show and Sale shows off the artistic talent and achievements of the entire region and typically displays well over 100 artworks. Many prominent artists working today (including Aganetha Dyck, Catherine Blackburn and George Glenn among others) got their start in the Winter Festival Art Show.

The first Winter Festival Art Show was organized in 1976 by The Little Gallery (the Mann Art Gallery’s first incarnation) and contracted the tapestry artist Anne Newdigate as its first guest curator.

The 2023 Winter Festival Art Show will run from Feb. 10 to Mar. 25. The show also marks the first time since 2020 the opening reception will return as an in-person event.

Dion said that he was looking forward to his talk at the opening reception and the walk through the next day. The reception is at 7 p.m. on Feb 10 and the curator walk through is at 10 a.m. on Feb. 11.