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David Thauberger, Vanishing Point (2013), acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy of SLATE Fine Art Galley
As a dad, he’s proud. As an artist who has exhibited internationally, Joe Fafard is blown away by Regina’s newest gallery. It just happens to be the creative venture of his daughter Gina Fafard and her partner, Kimberly Fyfe.
He says he can now admit he was pretty skeptical when she first floated the idea by him. “I just said to her, ‘are you sure you really want to do this?’ Because I know what an art gallery is. It’s a lot of work and it can be quite difficult. But I guess it’s something she’s been dreaming about, so why would I stand in the way of somebody else’s dream?”
Slate Fine Art Gallery opened 4 April 2013 boasting 2,000 square feet of gallery space in Regina’s heritage district. Gina—who studied jewelry design and also worked in her father’s studio—says the gallery will feature emerging and established artists, especially those based in Saskatchewan to reflect the abundance of home-grown talent.
“I think a lot of the artists here could use more exposure, because people always seem to be quite surprised by what they find when they look at Prairie art,” she says. “So it wasn’t too difficult finding them, because we live in the Prairies and we wanted to focus on local artists. But not exclusively, so it wasn’t really a choice to do Prairie artists. We’re just choosing the artists we know and love from our own region.”
Those artists include Victor Cicansky, Jack Cowin who originally hails from Indiana but now lives in Saskatchewan, Joe Fafard, David Thauberger and Russell Yuristy who was Prairie-born but now lives and works in Ottawa. All are represented in the collection of the National Gallery.
Kimberly Fyfe says that even those “outsiders” on Slate’s roster of artists often have Prairie connections. “Our artist in Pennsylvania and our artist in Quebec used to live in Saskatchewan,” she says. “There are still those ties there, and I think you see that in their art work, even if they’re not from the Prairies. They’ve been affected by the Prairies in some way and it definitely shows.”
Sculptor Victor Cicansky says Slate fills a long-standing gap in the Saskatchewan art scene. “There has been a sense that all the really good art is done in the big centres like Toronto, New York, Montréal and Berlin. Our local art can tend to be disregarded,” he says. “For the past couple of years now, a group of us, including Gina and Kimberly, has been talking about opening another gallery. We all said we would support them and it has just taken off like a prairie fire. These two grabbed the idea and ran with it.”
The two owners are also hoping Slate becomes a meeting place where established and emerging artists can connect. “A lot of the established artists that we have, like Thauberger, Fafard and Yuristy, were all in it together at the same time. They supported each other as emerging artists back in the ’70s,” Gina says. “Some of this generation of new artists don’t have that. They’re sort of on their own. So maybe what we need to do is connect the generations a little bit more. Create a venue for them to connect with each other as well as connect with their public.”
At 78 years old, Victor Cicankski says he has lots to gain from networking with that new wave of younger artists. “I’m one of the older, senior artists, and I’m spending most of my time in the studio, so I don’t get around a lot. So to go to an opening where you meet new, young artists gives you a kind of energy and new ideas, and you realize this is the new group of artists coming up behind you. It makes you remember where you were 25, 30, maybe 40, years ago. You encourage them and they energize us.”
Gina says her father visits the new gallery often, and has been “very supportive. He also cautioned me that it’s a difficult way to make a living, and that it’s a bit of a risk. But he is very encouraging, and he knew, just as we did, that there was a need for this in Regina.”
“I think we’re surprising him in what we’ve been able to do,” says Kimberly. “He’s thrilled and excited by all the work we’ve accomplished in the past couple of months.”
“I think they are going to do really well,” says Joe. “They’re really enthused and excited about it, they have the imagination and the chutzpah, and they did a marvellous job with that space. They are a good team. They complement each other. They have different but necessary skills.”
Slate Fine Art Gallery is located at 2078 Halifax Street, Regina, Saskatchewan.
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