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'World-class' Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery continues to excel

Despite the pandemic, MJMAG continues its connection with the community, pioneering outreach through artistic spirit and innovative use of technology.

Despite the pandemic, MJMAG continues its connection with the community, pioneering outreach through artistic spirit and innovative use of technology.
“It’s been challenging for the last year and a half,” Curator/Director Jennifer McRorie says, “We’ve had to really reinvent how we engage with the community and our audiences with a lot of virtual programming. But we have been able to broaden our outreach. Our most recent Artist’s Talk with Belinda Harrow had call participants from as far away as New Zealand.”

MJMAG has been able to secure emergency funding from both federal and provincial sources to help carry them through the pandemic, but McRorie says their operating budget is very thin, and will continue to be affected into the next year. The loss they have felt most significantly has been their Canada Day Park Art festival. Hosting around 80 vendors, artisans, and craftspeople, with nearly 5,000 people attending each year, MJMAG has not been able to hold Park Art in two years. 

“It has been challenging,” McRorie notes, “because that was a significant source of donations for us. We’ve also missed the community interaction of that event, and it was a great way to celebrate Canada Day while support local artists and craftspeople.”

MJMAG doubles as a busy art education centre. Education Coordinator Christy Schweiger has been at MJMAG for 18 years coordinating their art and education programs. “The disruption really threw me for a loop,” she says. “I personally was interacting with three to four thousand kids a year through our programs here, but after the pandemic hit, we had to halt all in-person programs.” 

It didn’t take long for the staff to begin brainstorming ways of connecting with the community online and over the telephone. “We’re doing a lot of work now with Seniors’ Centre Without Walls,” Schweiger says, “which is a program where we mail out art kits, and then have telephone calls with groups of seniors who have been isolated and shut in, and we go through the kits together and make art.” They are constantly innovating new ideas for the program, which aims toward inclusivity for those who may not have the technology or internet connection to participate online.

A new drop-in watercolor class started on Oct. 15th, with social distancing and proof of two-dose vaccination required in order to keep potentially vulnerable participants safe. Local schools are participating in interactive virtual classes with a wide variety of different projects including bring-your-own-supplies or mail-out art kits. A program they’ve called CREATEabilities is made specifically for those with special needs and learning differences. 

“Our focus in the last year and a half has been reaching to the community,” McRorie says. “We’ve really connected to people reaching out to deal with isolation, and once we’re through [Covid-19], we still will continue to provide virtual outreach.”

MJMAG, which in now in it’s 55th year, won the Organization Leadership award in May from SK Arts, which noted that the gallery has become “an integral part of the artistic landscape in Saskatchewan and in Canada,” and that “[t]heir exhibits and commissioned installations are world class and have been shown as far away as Sydney, Australia and Tokyo, Japan.”

Moose Javians wishing to support the museum and art gallery can explore the art programs on their website or sign up for a yearly membership here.