Artists ‘animate’ Culture Days in Saskatchewan

November, 2013

As in past years, this year’s Culture Days Animateurs continued to generate a great deal of enthusiasm for cultural activity as they toured the province. Since 2010, SaskCulture has hired Saskatchewan artists, from a variety of disciplines, to interest people – planners and public - in participating in Culture Days, a three-day event held late September, that encourages residents to explore the cultural life of their community. In 2013, four artists – Carol Daniels, Matt Josdal, Karlie King and Shayna Stock – set out to “animate” Culture Days, and encourage even more Saskatchewan people to try a new cultural activity and get engaged with culture in their community.

Carol Daniels - a Cree and Chipewyan artist




Carol Daniels held many workshops in Saskatchewan schools, including the one pictured above in Gravelbourg!

I always held the belief that Saskatchewan is truly a magical place. It is why I live here. Having the wonderful opportunity to work as an Animateur this past summer has shown me exactly why that belief is true.

I visited many communities, including: La Ronge, Prince Albert, Gull Lake, Beaver Flat, Fillmore, moose Jaw, Gravelbourg, Assiniboia, little Black Bear, Piapot, Whitewood and many others in between. I have met thousands of people; each proud to share their culture by telling me a story, taking part in celebrating my own First Nations drumming traditions and by seeing their own community as a place where cultural magic happens. For example, in Ituna, we did a blanket creation project – where participants engaged by recounting stories about the historic significance of their town. We re-created museum artifacts and sat down to a potluck of home-made breads, jams, preserves, and of course, perogies.

I visited several schools across the province, where children of all ages were mesmerized by the heartbeat sound of my hand-drum. They were then invited to join, trying the drum for themselves and having fun creating their own songs. I hope that in my travels across the province this summer, especially in the schools where I did drumming workshops, that I have left an appreciation and interest in culture that extends beyond my visit, because at the heart of it – every day is a celebration of culture.

Matt Josdal - a theatre artist from Saskatoon.




An enthusiastic workshop participant in Balgonie, SK even showed up in costume as George Burns!

As an Animateur, I was able to spend time with community theatre groups throughout the province. I was struck by the wide variety of people who “LOVE” theatre. From a woman in her 90's, who I'm sure could be a very successful stand-up comic, to two young girls aged 11 and 13, I saw people from completely different backgrounds coming together to learn and play in the theatre.

I think one visit that will stick with me is my time spent in Churchbridge. There, they have a relatively young theatre group that is only going into its third production. Instead of doing a structured workshop as planned, we talked about choosing plays, holding auditions, the financial viability of owning versus renting a sound system, how to create community participation in a theatre group, stage construction... basically, you name it, we talked about it.

This workshop was one of the best attended I held all summer, in one of the smallest towns, with some of the least amount of collective experience. It was wonderful, simply because the room was full of people who were excited to be there, excited to make theatre, and excited to find ways to make their group thrive. I thank them for letting me be a part of it.

Karlie King - a multi-media artist from Mervin.




Tipi and Tibetan prayer flags at Bogart's Bay Coffee Roasters during Culture Days near Medstead, SK. Photo by Karlie King.

When asked to select “my favourite aspect of Culture Days” I went through my list of activities: paper gardens, piñatas, print making en-masse, image transfers, origami, book forts, kites, edible art class, papier-mâché flash mobs, decoupage, and so on.

Choosing one of these activities wasn’t a fit for “my favourite.” Ironically, the best part of this experience, for me, was the spontaneous moments when “culture just happened”.

It was the little girl who in the middle of a street festival broke out in dance (like no one was watching). It was the kids who (without knowing each other’s names) played games in one room, while a fiddler played music in another. It was the elder who stopped me before getting in my car, with the classic conversation starter “Where ya from?” and then telling me all about the "good-ole" days.

It was the couple that is neither Tibetan, nor First Nations, who have a teepee strung with prayer flags in their yard, for moments of solitude and prayer.

These, and other similar instances, are my favourite moments of “culture”—period, so, it makes sense that they would also be my favourite moments as a Culture Days Animateur.

Shayna Stock – a spoken word artist from Regina.




Poet Tara Willet and Shayna Stock after performing at Perchfest at Katepwa Lake, August 2013.

My goal as an Animateur, in addition to promoting Culture Days, was to engage people in new and creative ways in the art of poetry. My approach was two-pronged: spoken word workshops, and an activity I’m calling "eavesdrop poetry".

The workshops, which were mostly in high school classrooms, youth groups and summer camps, allowed me to share my passion for performance poetry with young people who, for the most part, hadn’t heard of "spoken word". By introducing them to this more interactive and animated type of poetry, I hoped to demonstrate that there’s a lot more to poetry than sonnets and metaphors.

I facilitated over 30 workshops with various groups of young people in grades six and up. one highlight that sums up many of the responses I received from students was a comment made by a Grade 10 Moose Javian, who said after my workshop, “That was actually pretty good.” she said she thought they’d “just be writing poetry all day” and was surprised that she’d actually had some fun.

Eavesdrop poetry is a type of found poetry I developed to engage people at public events such as festivals. Participants jot down things they overhear in the crowd, bring their contributions to me, and at the end of the event, I compile a poem from them. The process of collecting these lines of poetry allows event-goers to listen to, and interact with; their surroundings in a more creative way, flowing from the concept that poetry exists everywhere; it is the poet’s job to find it (and we are all poets). All of the eavesdrop poems I compiled this summer are on my blog at