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Originally Posted 07/31/12

Several people have asked me how I happened onto this opportunity to be Guest Artist in Residence at Cypress Hills Interprovincila Park, SK. They say that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca  I certainly feel lucky to have spent four weeks of my 2012 summer there.

I really do feel it was a matter of the right timing. Lead artists Geoff Phillips and Connie Phillips have been the artists in residence since the beginning of this 3 year pilot project called Art in the Park. 2012 is the third year of this project. This program was made possible through the Creative Partnerships Grant Program via the Saskatchewan Arts Board, The Friends of Cypress Hills Park Inc. and Sask.Lotteries. I will be mentioning more about the Friends of Cypress in a future blog.

In the summer of 2011 my now adult children, their spouses and I planned a family camping reunion in Cypress Hills. Cypress has always been our favourite Saskatchewan park although we have camped in many throughout the province and even kept a trailer for three seasons at Sherwood Forest, just outside Regina.  When they were younger we visited Cypress often and even spent a 3 week stint there one June when they were 3, 6, 7 & 8 years old. Yes, I was busy!  We all really valued this time away from regular routines, friends and electronics.  Story times around the bonfire and sometimes even a magic show by my oldest son would replace evening sitcoms as our entertainment.  We especially loved Cypress for all its various wildflowers, wildlife and the many km of hiking trails.

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“Colours in Cypress“ photo by Nikki Jacquin

During our 2011 visit, I had noted a new addition to the park … The Artist`s Cabin. Of course I had to climb the hill by the ice cream shop to peer in the window. The gallery was not open on that occasion but later in the week I saw Geoff conducting a painting class in the white tents across from Loch Leven, the main lake in Cypress Hills, SK.  We chatted a bit but I didn`t want to interrupt his class.  The thought of combining two of my loves painting and camping seemed too good to be true, but I decided to call the park office to see if they were accepting applications from artists for the 2012 season.

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“The Artist`s Cabin“ photo by Nikki Jacquin

What I didn`t know was that Connie and Geoff had been awarded a 3 year artist residency there. As it turns out however they were just starting their young family with a toddler and a new baby. For the past 2 years of the residency they had been fulfilling the duties faithfully from May to the end of Sept. each year leaving them little summer vacation time together with their family.  Duties included planning artistic programming in the park for visitors and cabin owners.  They were also expected to have open studio times for the public at the artist`s cabin and work on their own art practices.  Apparently my inquiry was well timed as they were considering ways to allow the program to continue but still make room for family vacation time.  I was asked to  submit my artist`s c.v. and digital examples of my work.  I had a brief meeting with Melody Negal-Hisey, Park Area Naturalist, the liaison with the park who put me in touch with Connie.  Connie then led me through the process of planning for the workshops I would teach, scheduling, budgeting and purchasing materials needed.

I, along with Louis Perrin of Skyswept Designs, and Meryl Stock a watercolourist from Maple Creek were invited to take on several weeks of programming as Guest Artist in Residence.  Louise, a fiber artist led workshops on Silk Scarf Dyeing and Fusible Fiber Art.  Meryl taught classes in watercolour painting and I taught a variety of workshops on the floral and wildlife of Cypress in acrylic and air drying clay.  Connie and Geoff continued to fill in  on weeks when we were not in the park.

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