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Inaugural art festival to showcase the work of artists in southwest Saskatchewan

The Cypress Hills Grasslands Destination Area (CHGDA) organization's inaugural Southwest Art Fest will run from Sept. 1 to 30
SW Art Fest 2021
The Southwest Art Festival logo. Photo courtesy Facebook

Since some tourists like to travel in September when crowds are smaller, an organization in southwest Saskatchewan wants to attract those people for an inaugural arts festival occurring in several area communities.

The Cypress Hills Grasslands Destination Area (CHGDA) organization has organized the first Southwest Art Fest, which encompasses multiple art genres such as painting, drawing, pottery, quilting, photography, film, music and other visual arts. 

The event runs from Sept. 1 to 30 and gives artists throughout that area the chance to showcase their artwork. Artists are encouraged to find a venue in which to feature their material and vice versa.

The CHGDA has 36 partners in dozens of communities throughout the province’s southwest corner and southeast Alberta.        

Blaine Filthaut, owner and artist with the Broken Spoke Fine Art Gallery and Gift Store in Maple Creek, explained that September is the best month for his business since “a different type of tourist travels at that time.” Furthermore, since there are few scheduled activities across the area, the CHGDA wanted to fill that month in an organized way. 

“The concept comes from almost like a city art walk, where you go on a third Thursday of the month are walks at this location, and you go,” he said. “And on those concepts, usually what happens is an artist finds a venue or a venue finds an artist that wants to participate.” 

However, an art walk is impossible for small towns, especially when they are scattered across more than 42,000 square kilometres of southwest Saskatchewan, Filthaut continued. This is unfortunate since there are “a huge amount of great artists” in the area. 

“Like the whole area, I’m saying there are many artists not well known, and art as a culture in Saskatchewan isn’t the highest thing on the list, either, so this is also a nice way to be promoting the arts,” he added.

This festival also helps address the issue of towns holding activities and their neighbours not knowing about them. This event ensures all municipalities are aware of what’s happening.

The CHGDA has a map on its website listing all 36 partners and the communities where they’re located. This is important, said Filthaut, since some tourists like to engage in “map quests” where they use Google maps to find lodgings and restaurants in communities and then visit those places. 

The organization’s area stretches from Leader in the northwest to Val Marie in the southeast. Although Swift Current is not included as a partner but is on Highway 1, the CHGDA approached art galleries in that community and convinced a few to participate in the festival. 

The festival provides a safe venue to tour, meet and discover art in southwest Saskatchewan in a COVID-19-safe environment, said Filthaut. That area of the province is also vast and diverse and features many kilometres of highway that pass through the sandhills, the grasslands, Cypress Hills and communities with great sights to discover.

The Cypress Hills Grasslands Destination Area spoke with Tourism Saskatchewan about this event, he continued, and while the government-run organization loved the idea, it was too late to support it due to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. Yet, Tourism Saskatchewan said it might jump on board in 2022.

Even though the CHGDA could not obtain a provincial endorsement, the organization is still excited to host the month-long festival.

“We’re looking forward to it. Everybody I’ve talked with, including from the artistic side, they think it could be here for a long time. It’ll just grow … ,” added Filthaut. “Once you get on the map and do a show, it just builds. But somebody’s got to start it, and this is the start.”  

For more information, visit https://visitcypresshills.ca or the CHGDA Facebook page