Creative Outlook

The artists and craftspeople of Saskatchewan have an appreciative audience in Outlook

Colourful paintings line two walls of a gallery.
The Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils brought the work of Ovide Bighetty to the art gallery in Outlook, Saskatchewan. — Photo courtesy Lynn McKenzie-Barteski

Under an enormous prairie sky, the promise of productive farmland set in breeze-swept grasslands along the South Saskatchewan River attracted the first settlers to Outlook, Saskatchewan, in the early 1900s. The completion and opening of the Gardiner and Qu’Appelle River dams in 1967 made irrigation possible for the furtherance of agriculture in the area.

The emergence of creativity

As the generations followed one after another through the seasons of rural life, a strain of creativity emerged—perhaps to balance the exhausting work of farming, perhaps simply as a denial response to the long, dark winters.

Local watercolourist Lynn McKenzie-Barteski produces much of her art in the winter. She mostly does paintings of nature—trees and gardens and such—and enjoys teaching art classes as well.

“I like to see how people open up to new possibilities through taking the classes,” said McKenzie-Barteski.

Murals and gallery exhibits

Artistic expression is in plain sight as you pass through the town of Outlook. There are at least four murals in evidence—one celebrating canola, one depicting a pioneer theme, one about the fruits of irrigation, and one that expresses the dreams and aspirations of the students who painted it. That’s a lot for a town of fewer than 2,500 people.

Two years ago the town’s active volunteer arts council successfully applied for funding from the nearby Dakota Dunes Casino, and revamped the space that formerly housed the Outlook library to create the lovely new Art Gallery of Outlook.

Since that time, the gallery has hosted about a dozen travelling exhibits under the auspices of the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils (OSAC), and more are planned for the future. Each of those touring exhibits—called Saskatchewan Art on the Move—remains on display for about a month; during the rest of the year the gallery shows the work of other artists—some from Outlook and some from elsewhere in Saskatchewan.

The Outlook high school reserves the gallery for the month of June, to show the art of the students; the works can be done in whatever medium the students choose. During July and August, local quilters display their lovingly crafted creations. When local art is featured, the artists are welcome to present art in any medium.

“We exhibit art, crafts, sculpture and photography, for a well-balanced show that has something for everyone,” said Susan Robertson, a successful local potter. “We’d love for people to become interested in art and perhaps take up a creative endeavour for themselves.”

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