National Gallery of Saskatchewan brings artistic presence to Canora

Sarah Fougere (nee Holtom) of Canora has enjoyed the outdoors ever since she can remember, so it was a natural progression for her to become an artist.

She and her husband Robert have purchased a building on Main Street in Canora for their business, the National Gallery of Saskatchewan.

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Fougere was born in Terrace, B.C. and was raised in Jasper, Alta. Her mother, Jane Holtom, was a fisherwoman, which meant Fougere spent plenty of time outside. She did not inherit her mother’s interest in fishing, but became an avid hiker and skier, and said she definitely gained an appreciation for the world around her.

“I enjoy being able to sit and perceive everything around me,” said Fougere. “That includes being able to take the time to take it in, interpret it and replicate it in my paintings. I like to put that on a pedestal and then appreciate the results.”

Fougere’s mother attended art school and she followed in her footsteps, graduating from the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary in 2004.

Her mother had opened a previous version of the National Gallery of Saskatchewan in Canora a number of years ago, which is what initially drew Fougere to Canora.

“I love the lifestyle in Canora,” she said. “Instead of spending most of my time running all over the city, like I did when I lived in Calgary, Vancouver and New York, I can spend more time on important things, like reading to my children or going tobogganing with them.”

The building purchased by Fougere and her husband is on a busy part of Main Street and the heritage brick exterior on the front of the building was a definite selling point, said Fougere. The four entrances to the building are another significant asset.

Her main areas of interest in terms of subject matter are personal portraits and landscapes. She said she has not often combined the two, but did so in a recently completed painting which has drawn considerable interest in Canora and the surrounding area.

The painting is titled Pulling the Flax, and took approximately 50 hours to complete, said Fougere. It was created from a picture taken sometime between 1919 and 1922 of a Doukhobor woman harvesting flax near Veregin.

“The photographer was Edith Watson,” said Fougere. “She was interested in the Doukhobors and took pictures while with them, mainly of the Doukhobor women.”

Jon Kalmakoff, formerly of Canora, commissioned the work after receiving a gift certificate from his mother Oney Pollock of Canora. Kalmakoff wrote The Doukhobor Trading Company in Canora series which was previously featured in the Canora Courier.

After Kalmakoff took ill there was some concern over whether he would be able to cover the full cost of the painting. But his sister Janna Kalmakoff started a fundraiser and the full $1,500 had been raised by Christmas.

The painting is three feet by three feet and is on linen, which is made from flax. Fougere said she made a conscious effort to let the linen shine through in the painting as much as possible.

“The light play in the iridescent and metallic paints changes the picture slightly according to the angle from which the painting is viewed,” explained Fougere.

Due to the strong interest expressed by enthusiasts in Canora and surrounding area, Fougere put on a showing at the National Gallery of Saskatchewan on December 21 before the painting was sent off to its owner.

She said she has notified the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa regarding the name of her business to make sure there weren’t any issues or concerns, and was told, “they thought it was cute.”

Fougere said the Main Street location is a “nice place to meet with customers.” Even though she presently welcomes commissions, Fougere and her husband have bigger plans for their new location, after they fix the roof and complete some other general repairs.

“The studio area was previously used as a barber shop, and I plan to use the barber’s chair as a place for people to sit when I’m painting their portraits,” she said. “Eventually I would like to display paintings by other artists, in addition to my own, in the gallery area. We plan to have a classroom which could be used for classes, paint nights or even birthday parties, where the paint can fly. One room might be converted to a suite, possibly for an artist in residence or a Bed and Breakfast. My husband plans to use the back room for a hobby bike repair shop. And we’re looking into the possibility of using the backyard for community movie nights.”

Fougere previously recorded a series of one-hour episodes on landscape painting in the Canora area for Access TV and plans to do more in the future.

Another goal, after the building repairs have been completed, is to paint a series of portraits of senior residents of Canora and tell their stories.