Southwest resident short-listed for provincial arts award
Shann Gowan of Swift Current is a short-listed nominee for the 2018 Saskatchewan Arts Awards.
She has been nominated in the category for individual leadership in recognition of her tireless efforts over many years to promote cultural activities in in the Swift Current area.
The 2018 Saskatchewan Arts Awards winners were to be announced during an awards presentation at Casino Regina which was taking place Oct. 25.
Last year she retired from her role as Cultural Festivals executive director, but after 15 years her name has become synonymous with the Blenders concert series and StirCrazy Blues festival as well as the Windscape Kite Festival and Long Day’s Night music festival.
“I was really honoured,” she said about the nomination. “It's a pretty prestigious award with the Saskatchewan Arts Board, and the Arts Board is an organization that I strongly believe in. So I was really thrilled.”
The Saskatchewan Arts Board established these awards in 2016 to celebrate the achievements of individuals, groups and organizations in all arts disciplines. There are six award categories and each winner receives an award sculpture and a cash prize.
The award category for individual leadership, in which Gowan is a finalist, aims to recognize and celebrate an individual who demonstrates leadership and commitment to the advancement of the arts and artists in the province.
She noted that the Saskatchewan Arts Board is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2018. It is the longest running public arts funder in North America and the second oldest in the world. Over the years she has become very familiar with the efforts of this organization to support the arts in Saskatchewan through grants and other programs.
“Arts organizations can go out and get all the sponsorship and all the stuff to run events, but no one helps to pay the person who does it, no one helps pay those core costs except people like the Arts Board,” she said. “So it's an organization I feel really strongly about. It helps musicians and artists get their foot up so they can present themselves as professionally as possible and I think it's a fantastic organization.”
Arts Board funding has helped Gowan to carry out her work when she was the executive director of Cultural Festivals in Swift Current.
Sponsorship funds for arts and cultural events do not always accommodate remuneration costs for those who are doing the work to create those activities.
“That's the hard part, because its really easy to sell sponsorship for a concert or a special event, but it takes a whole bunch more above that to actually pay someone to do all the work to put them on,” she said. “So that's where the Arts Board and some of those funding organizations step in and they're paid for by our tax dollars, but they also benefit everybody. If we didn't have concerts in Swift Current, it would be a much sadder place to live.”
She believes culture must not be seen as a luxury, but as an essential and necessary part of every person's existence.
“I think it's a core part of who we all are,” she said.
“We have a huge amazing music industry in Canada that needs to be shown to people. It's not just what's on the radio. There are lots and lots out there and when you can have a vibrant cultural community in your city, it attracts people to come, it attracts business, it keeps people here, it keeps people happy. It's one of the most important things that you can do to enrich the life of people in your community and family festivals like Windscape are the other kind of thing that make for healthy communities.”
It was her own desire to listen to new and different music in Swift Current that eventually evolved into the Blenders concert series. She asked Kim Houghtaling, the curator and director of the Art Gallery of Swift Current, if she could organize a blues concert at the gallery.
“I just wanted to have music that I had travelled to go see,” Gowan said. “I was going outside of town all the time and I knew there were other people that care about that as well. So we just gave it a try and it was really successful. I gave another one a try and then that summer we put on a five-day music festival and it went over really good. It just kind of build itself organically.”
Since her retirement she has remained involved with the organization that she guided for so many years. She serves as a Cultural Festivals board member, and she has shared her knowledge and experience with the new executive director, Sheri Florizone.
Gowan still coordinated the arrangements for this year's Windscape Kite Festival, because it can be a daunting task for someone who has never done that before.
“So this year was my last year,” she said. “I was on site the whole week. I was directing the traffic and got it all in place and got it up and running Saturday morning and then I backed away.”
Gowan is one of the few short-listed nominees for the 2018 Saskatchewan Arts Awards who are not from Regina or Saskatoon. Another name on the list that will be familiar to southwest Saskatchewan residents is Joseph Naytowhow of Saskatoon. He frequently visits the southwest to participate in cultural and educational events. He has been short-listed for the arts and learning award.
(Due to press time, no results were know at time of printing but an updated story will be on the website: www.prairiepost.com)