The Art of Giving
by Matthew Barron
Given the difficulty Henry (BA'65, LLB'68, BCL Oxford'70) and Cheryl Kloppenburg (LLB'75, MA'75) have in fitting their enormous and always-growing art collection into the confines of their home and shared law office, you'd think they would be hard-pressed to know what to do with it.
Actually, quite the opposite is true. Over the years, the couple has donated a significant number of paintings to the Mendel Art Gallery, the College of Agriculture, and loaned others to the Saskatoon Club-all because the Kloppenburgs know exactly what they want such exhibits to achieve.
In the case of the 20 paintings that now hang in the 6th floor hallway of the College of Agriculture-including works by prominent local artists Robert Hurley, Allen Sapp, Reta Cowley-Henry jokes that he wants to "develop the artistic tastes over there at the College of Agriculture."
Cheryl, more seriously, adds that exposing people to art is important, and the best way to bring about this exposure is to have art displayed permanently-and not necessarily in a gallery where paintings are dusted off for periodic showings. "We accept that there's a risk involved," she says, "but the paintings and the artists will get more exposure."
But no dust collects on the Kloppenburgs' belief that culture is integral to a community, since culture remains so much a part of their lives, both being music, art, and literature buffs. "Both of us feel that cultural organizations are very important to the quality of life in the community," says Henry. "Fancy Saskatoon without a symphony, or a quality art gallery, or a writing community. Yet these areas are very, very often neglected by donors who often prefer health care organizations, which we think is the government's responsibility."
To give anything beyond a sharply abbreviated account of their contribution to the U of S, Saskatoon, and even the province at large-an account that extends beyond arts and culture-would have to be an exercise in patience. There are annual monetary donations to the Saskatoon Symphony, Grain magazine, and a slew of scholarships for such schools as Humboldt Collegiate, Rosthern Junior College, and the U of S.
Then there are the gifts of time: Cheryl's stint as board member and president at Sherbrooke Community Centre (a nursing home); her time on the board of the Victorian Order of Nurses, for which she won a community service medal; her membership with the federal task force to assess long-term care in Saskatoon; and her board membership with the Saskatchewan Arts Board.
Besides Henry's stints as chairperson for the Mendel Art Gallery and the Saskatoon Symphony, he has, among many other things, received both a President's and a Service Award for his work with the Kidney Foundation of Canada, and served on the U of S Bioethics Committee for 20 years. In 1994, the Kloppenburgs both received the Financial Post's national award for community support of the arts.
That said, both feel that besides the art donations to the College of Agriculture, the most gratifying gift they have made is that of 160 acres of unbroken, uncultivated grassland prairie donated in the community of Humboldt. Henry says the resulting wildlife refuge exposes people-such as the students in Humboldt who frequent the land on class trips-to the pristine character of a natural grassland prairie.
This exposure to natural land, the scholarships, the donations to the symphony and galleries are all driven by their desire to expose people to excellence so that further excellence can result-thereby raising the bar of cultural values.
"You're not going to get good music teachers without a symphony," adds Henry, a Rhodes Scholar and, like his wife, also a successful lawyer. "It's an essential institution for musical education in the community because it's an exemplar of what ought to be."