Along Spiritwood’s Main Street are sights you wouldn’t expect to see in a town of 1,000. In the library’s window are lakeside scenes, while in the window of The Nines hair salon, stands a rooster in bold colour.
A number of businesses along Spiritwood’s Main Street are featuring the work of local artists and artists from the surrounding area in its windows.
The idea was Heather Beauchesne’s, a local physiotherapist and artist. In 2016, artist Mavis Bellisle approached Beauchesne to establish the presence of art in town. Beauchesne, along with Northern Lakes Economic Development Corporation’s Managing Director Bevra Fee, asked local businesses if they’d allow for art to be showcased in display windows they weren’t using.
The first building to have art in its windows was the RM of Spiritwood building. Businesses gradually allowed art to be displayed in their windows, although Beauchesne said it was sometimes a hard sell at the beginning.
“A lot of people wanted to wait and see before they’d say yes to something.”
Now, Fee said, there is art in “pretty much all the windows in town that are available.”
Beauschesne said she initially expected only three or four artists to participate, but interest grew. The work of 12 artists is currently featured. Fee was also surprised by the local interest.
“I didn’t know a little northern prairie town was interested in the arts,” Fee said. “It’s not only locals, it’s tourism. Lots of people come through the area. It’s really sparked an interest I didn’t know we had.”
Artists that came along with the Regional Optimist for a tour were Mavis Bellisle, Taylor Olson, Monica Kitching, Rigmor Clarke from Shell Lake, Nathan Pinsent from Leoville (who said he’s been marketing himself for 26 years), and Pat Jacobson. Most featured artists are self-taught, with some art classes here and there.
Fee and Beauchesne said the plan is to try to secure funding for a gallery space and an artist-in-residence. The gallery space would be the RM building in town. In order to prevent too much art in the building at once, Fee said an option is to showcase the work of two artists at once, while the other work would stay in its respective windows.
“We’ve had so much interest with people coming into the offices and businesses where the artwork is, looking for the gallery,” Fee said.
Pat Jacobson said she likes the art along Main Street because not needing to go into a building allows for more people to see the art, and walking tours offer an opportunity to walk around and chat.
Jacobson has displayed her work in the Chapel and Allen Sapp galleries in North Battleford. She said people are more likely to judge art that’s in a gallery, rather than just admire it.
“Sometimes as an artist it doesn’t matter to me if they like it or not,” Jacobson said. Along Main Street, “if you like it, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t.”
Monica Kitching said she enjoys the opportunity to display her work to the public.
“I’m 60 and starting over again on a new journey in life.”
She said her family inspired her to start painting again.
“The door’s open for me, and I’m loving it.”
Art in Main Street windows began in May and will continue until September.
Beauchesne wrote in an email that the program wasn’t driven by an artist collective, but rather by individuals and town representatives. Artists in the Spiritwood and surrounding area are encouraged to contact Beauchesne or Fee.
Featuring art in Main Street windows, Beauchesne added, is something any town can start doing.
Fee said she’s embracing Spiritwood’s new artistic side.
“We used to be known for the rodeo, now we’re going to be known for the arts,” Fee said.
She said she often hears of rural towns disappearing and changing for the worse, but art along Main Street is an example of the community thriving.
“We’re holding our own and maybe even winning the battle a bit.”
Additional work by some of the artists: