Renovating the Arts

by Carey Robertson

Renewing natural tranquility may sound like a contradiction but that's the job at hand. Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus, known for its tranquility, beauty and simplicity, is a place where artists, ecologist, and biologists have been going for years to relax and get lost in their work.

The Emma Lake Summer Art Camp was established in 1936 by Gus Kenderdine, the man who also started the University of Saskatchewan's Art Department and now, 63 years later the Kenderdine Campus is undergoing a renewal that will preserve and protect the charm of the campus while enhancing its resources.

Kate Hobin, program co-ordinator in extension and site director at Kenderdine Campus, says this renewal has been in the planning stages since 1995. At that time consultants were hired to look into the use of the site and how it could be improved, users were interviewed to identify what things about the camp were important to them and what they thought could be changed.

In 1997 a master planning session was held involving students, university representatives and experts. A 10-Year Renewal Plan followed and last November the Board of Governors allocated the Kenderdine Campus $1 million for renovations over 10 years. This past year has been a transition year for the campus in more ways than one. It received $75,000 for renovations but it also went through changes in administration.

In November, SIAST discontinued its responsibility for the campus and it is now entirely run by the University of Saskatchewan. Current use of the Kenderdine Campus is as varied as the students who attend. Most classes are art oriented, but there are also biology and ecology classes, with a lab on site for scientific studies. The campus was declared a game preserve in 1962, so along with the associated Fairy Island biology station only a short canoe trip away, this area has emerged as a site for environmental and ecological studies of all kinds.

Art programs run for varying lengths during the summer and deal with mediums such as oil and acrylic paints, willow, pottery, and wood. Independent organizations also use the campus for their programs. For example, the Emma Lake Fiddle Camp is held for four weeks at the campus every year. The Saskatchewan Writer's Guild also holds the annual Emma Lake Writer's and Artist's Colony every August and the University of Saskatchewan College of Physical Education sponsors a gymnastics program.

The facilities accommodate up to 63 people in rustic comfort. Among the immediate renovations are handrails in all of the cabins, putting in plumbing, sewer, water, and electrical systems, fixing roofs and adding skylights, improving the beach front, deck, and pathways, and protecting vegetation.

Right now only one of 20 cabins has plumbing and the campus activity is restricted to the summer months. There are also plans to buy more canoes, the existing outdoor sculpture pad will be expanded and a cover will be built over it to protect larger works from the elements.

A new studio is also proposed as a long-term project but outside fundraising will be needed to help pay for the building. Some outside associations are already donating funds for the renovations. The Saskatchewan Craft Council holds bi-annual woodworkers' conferences at the campus and has donated $10,000 towards improvements.

Hobin says the campus is a wonderful place to work and relax. She has been involved with the camp since she was a student in 1976. "It's a real retreat in a woodland area where you can focus all your efforts on the reason why you are there...It's a place to build important relationships and make friends."

She says the distraction-free setting and the service-oriented staff keep people coming back year after year. She has seen amateur artists gain priceless experience and skill at the camp. Some of the many well-known Saskatchewan artists who have attended the camp include: Dorothy Knowles-Perehudoff, Bill Perehudoff, Ernest Lindner, Bob Christie, Don Folds, and Greg Hardy. Hobin says the renovations will be gradual but her main goal is to preserve the things about Kenderdine Campus that people love - the things that have made the campus such a success since 1936.