Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Arts Patrons, Impresarios, and Philanthropists in Saskatchewan

Part 1: Lynda Haverstock, Arts Patron

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By Steven Ross Smith

Lynda Haverstock has had an enthusiasm for the arts all her life. It began when she was a child singing on a swing in Swift Current in her best friend Lorna’s backyard and putting on plays in her parents’ garage. Since then Lynda has been a choral and musical theatre singer, an art collector, and an arts advocate and patron.

Haverstock’s patronage was most visible during her term as Saskatchewan’s Lieutenant Governor from 2000 to 2006. She put our artistic richness at the forefront of her formal activities. Many remember her Arts Gala attended by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, which combined many arts disciplines – poetry, sculpture, music and dance – in a performance spectacle. Haverstock also created the Celebration of the Arts Pin, facilitated the arts documentary For the Love of the Land, and was integral to the Authors Tour in which accomplished Saskatchewan writers gave readings in libraries all around the province.

“The arts have been life-sustaining for me,” she says. “I’ve been able to be with people in theatre, with writers, painters, musicians and more. For me the arts provide edification of the soul.”

Haverstock is also aware that not every citizen shares her awareness, attention, acceptance and support of the arts. “Saskatchewan is not dissimilar to most places in Canada,” she says. “Canadians don’t know our history; we don’t revere it; we don’t preserve out heritage sites; we don’t celebrate our fascinating people; and we certainly don’t support our artists. The powers-that-be have for too long seen the arts as an area of expendability – it simply is not expendable.”

“You can go to another country – say the Czech Republic – where people live and breathe the arts. You can walk by the steps of the museum and there will be a Russian soprano singing; or turn a corner and go into any old church and there’ll be a wonderful ensemble playing; art permeates every single part of their existence and they understand that it is inextricably linked to who they are, to how they define themselves.”

Haverstock is currently President and CEO of Tourism Saskatchewan and she believes part of her job is to promote Saskatchewan artists and organizations. “When people enter this province through our gateways, we should have a very distinct presence, one that says you’ve arrived at a place that is unique, filled with people with great talent,” she says. “We need to recognize the Saskatchewan Craft Council; to know that the first Woodworkers Guild in North America happened here. Who knows that? And more firsts – the First Arts Board in Canada, even before the Canada Council; the first Drama Department at a university! Where did Canadian literature start – why Carlyle King started it! In Saskatchewan! Why don’t we know this?”

She continues: “There is something magical about artists working in so many parts of Saskatchewan that set it apart – it’s an artistic heartbeat. Artists capture what this place is, and they translate it into forms that are available to everybody. We should all know who Dorothy Knowles is, who the wonderful jewellers and designers – Winston Quan, Megan Broner and the Olson Brothers – are. And the musicians we’ve exported, like Edith Wiens and John Ballantyne.”

Too often our great history of art achievement is treated with casual disregard – our artists are better known outside Saskatchewan than at home – and Haverstock is keenly aware of our history and our lapses.

One example is the Emma Lake Visual Arts School and Studio North of Prince Albert. It was particularly famous in the ‘50s and ‘60s, in part because of visits by noteworthy international and Canadian artists and art critics, and has remained a vital centre for visual art development and creation ever since. It is a significant historic site, yet now it is at risk for lack of a committed agency or trustee. “How disconcerting it is to know that Emma Lake is being allowed to disintegrate!” exclaims Haverstock.

She laments further: “A pathetic oversight is that we’ve not made Joni Mitchell’s contribution to music a tangible, recognized presence in Saskatoon. It is not only a shame, but it’s shameful. She has won the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in music and we have done nothing to recognize her contribution. Shame on us!”

Haverstock’s passion, whether praising or lamenting, is remarkable and insightful. That she understands and has thought deeply about the arts is evident. She has a theory about why artistic expression is so strong in Saskatchewan. “We’re in a place where the horizon never ends. When you’re a vertical body, two things happen – you feel completely and utterly irrelevant and you feel totally, completely relevant. There’s this fascinating dilemma – you can have a real impact, yet you are nothing, relative to all of this. But you really do count because you’re the one visible thing. To me it presents the perfect chance . . . the impetus to make an imprint of some kind.”

Several thousand artists and arts workers are currently working in this province to make such an imprint. Lynda Haverstock believes that we need to expose our young people to these artists’ processes and productions. As a youth worker in the ‘70s, Haverstock put this belief to work. “I had a job where I got twenty-one kids off the street – one by one,” she says. “Very troubled young people of high school age who were truant and had been identified by the Catholic Board of Education. I set up a space in a church basement on 20th Street in Saskatoon, because I knew that it would be centrally located for some of the kids. It also allowed me to have, as teacher’s aids, drunks who would come in off the street to find a bathroom, and they had stories to tell that were worth hearing.”

Haverstock took these teenagers to the live play Creeps. She says her truants “could relate to being outsiders, to being judged, just like the main character of the play.” Her next step was to introduce them to Shakespeare, because he was on the high school curriculum. Lynda recalls “one young woman named Bernadette who hated the thought of Shakespeare. But together we all watched a whole rehearsal of Taming of the Shrew. The youths became quite engaged in the play; Shakespeare came to have meaning for them. Even Bernadette got so turned on that she wanted to read everything else written by Shakespeare.”

The cast of Taming of the Shrew included Janet, Susan, and John Wright. The Wrights, Saskatchewan-born, are a celebrated Canadian acting family. Janet has had many film and TV roles since the early seventies and is known currently for her role as Emma Leroy on the popular TV show Corner Gas.

Lynda’s method was unconventional but wise. The art of theatre reached these young people; it gave them a new perspective and piqued their imaginations. Some even went back to school.

Haverstock’s wisdom is one learned when she was a youth in need herself. As a teen in Swift Current, she was singing in various choirs. At fifteen she had to leave high school, and might have become isolated, but for music. “I will be forever grateful to my music teacher in Swift Current – Verda Towne. Verda continued to engage me in musical functions and responsibilities,” says Haverstock. “The costs of my lessons were supplemented by scholarships from music festival competitions. It is one of the reasons that I have been such a proponent of our great music festivals. By the way, Saskatchewan and Alberta were the only provinces for many, many years that took Governor General Grey (for whom the Grey Cup is named) up on his desire to have musical competitions as a means of developing and supporting budding musicians and singers. He wasn’t just about football!”

When Haverstock returned to high school Verda Towne continued to help with the singing lessons. And she continued her assistance when Lynda left her hometown for university in Saskatoon. Mrs. Towne paid for Haverstock’s singing lessons there with Frances James, who was married to composer Murray Adaskin. “What a remarkable opportunity. I was able to walk into their home where the musical karma was palpable!” Haverstock exclaims.

Lynda’s early love for music expanded to embrace ‘the arts’. “When I arrived at university with my daughter in tow, we had no money and even had to walk back alleys looking for pop bottles to put milk on the table,” Haverstock says. “Instead of buying a couch we had pillows, which was not unusual in those days. However, whenever I had a little bit of extra money I felt compelled to buy a painting or a piece of pottery. This was the late ‘60s. There were some tremendous potters – Jim Thornsbury and others who went on to great things elsewhere in the world.”

Today her collection includes Saskatoon painters Darrell Bell, Lorenzo Dupuis, Lorna Russell, Eli Bornstein, Regina painter Antoinette Herivel, Shell Lake painter Rigmor Clarke, and Saskatoon woodworker Michael Hosaluk.

Now a grandmother, Haverstock is passing on her appreciation of arts. “For her birthday this June my fifteen year old grand-daughter received season tickets to the Saskatoon Symphony; in September my thirteen year old grand-daughter was given Persephone Theatre season tickets. One can give children and grand-children the gift of art that will last for months, and it’s a different experience every time they attend. How wonderful is that?”

Those first hints of artistic zeal that bubbled up in Lynda Haverstock’s days growing up in Swift Current have come to fruition. Her friend Lorna – then Lorna Uher, now Lorna Crozier – is a widely published and internationally respected poet. “We’ve known each other since birth and we’ve never not been together,” says Haverstock “It’s quite remarkable to recall that the two of us in Swift Current were just a couple of kids making mud pies and putting on plays in my parent’s garage, performing Oh What A Beautiful Morning with her on my shoulders while pumping wildly on the swing in the back yard.”

Today Haverstock herself has become one of the province’s artistic treasures, as a patron of the arts, as an arts advocate, and as a spokesperson. The citizens of Saskatchewan – lay persons as well as artists, art appreciators, students, teachers, and programmers alike – benefit and learn from Lynda Haverstock’s unceasing and infectious passion for the arts.

Part 1 of a 5 part series commissioned by the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance.

© For permission to reprint this article please contact the SAA.

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