A community group, the Southwest Musician and Artist Collective, was formed after a meeting at the R.C. Dahl Centre in Swift Current on Dec. 3 to discuss the idea of a community-owned and operated centre for music and art.
“It was to get musicians and artists from the community together and to just brainstorm and think of as many things as we could that a space like that could be used for,” Swift Current music teacher and guitarist Michael Lyngstad said. “I think everybody that was there was really excited about what was going on, the prospects of it, and the potential it could have.”
He decided to organize the discussion as a result of his own experience as a music teacher in the city.
“I was frustrated by my students not being able to get quality instruments,” he said. “They come to me and the guitar was not very good, and there was nowhere to get supplies and equipment. So it all started off as me just wanting essentially to have a sort of collective music store supply outlet kind of thing.I was going to try to get together a few of the music teachers and have sort of a buying club almost.”
After talking with others and thinking about it a little more, he felt the idea of a co-operative might be of interest to a wider group of artists and musicians.
The group has created a survey to gauge the interest in the region for a music and art co-operative.
“The 10 people that were there would send around to all the artists and musicians that we knew,” he said. “We’ll just gauge interest for whether or not this sort of thing would be something that people would even want in the community and to see if it’s something they could use and would make use of if it did exist.”
That survey is now available online on the Southwest Musician and Artist Collective website at www.smartcollective.ca. The group is hoping anyone with an interest in music and arts will complete the survey.
“So if there are any artists or musicians that are interested in this kind of thing, they can check it out,” he said. “The whole survey is online or you can download it.”
Participants in the initial discussion on Dec. 3 came up with different ideas for a space operated by a music and art co-operative or collective in southwest Saskatchewan. It can provide studio space for visual art, music teaching and music practice, it can be used as a storage space, and it can be a retail outlet for music and art supplies.
The collective can also establish a shared equipment library and it can be an advocacy group for musicians and visual artists in the region.
Tim Robinson, a visual artist who attended the meeting, feels a music and art co-operative can have many benefits.
“The idea of having a space where musicians and artists could come and congregate and check each other out is helpful, especially in a smaller community where those places aren’t necessarily around,” he said. “It’s just nice to interact with other artists.”
He does mainly pencil sketches and has been drawing for most of his life. He moved away from Swift Current for a while and worked commercially as an artist.
“I've noticed that a lot of other artists that I’ve known from this area leave because there isn't that many opportunities,” he said. “So it’s easier for them to go out to the west coast or to Toronto or even just move out of Canada, and there really aren't a lot of spaces for that interaction.”
James McLauchlan, who is an accredited music therapist in Swift Current as well as a music instructor and performer, feels a co-operative can provide people with opportunities for artistic expression.
“The basis of a cooperative, just in and of itself, will help to give a leg up hopefully to folks out there, young or old, who have it in their spirit to be an artist, but aren’t really sure how to connect with other artists or have access to resources,” he said. “Art can often be an individual thing, but it’s also a community thing. So building a system of cooperation and communication will only benefit the arts in our region.”
He is excited to be part of the group that started this initiative after the meeting and he is looking forward to seeing the benefits of a co-operative for artists and musicians in the southwest.
“People who like art is a co-operative of life experiences around art,” he said. “We get to share that. ... Where do you think the arts are going to go if we’re a community that support each other and making room for everybody? I’m curious about what the voices are going to be and what's going to come out of the nurturing process, the life experience sharing process.”
The success of such a co-operative will depend on widespread support from artists and musicians in the region for the idea. The response to the survey will therefore be an important indication of the potential feasibility of the venture.
“That’s what the survey is all about,” Lyngstad said. “If we get enough people, we’ll see where it goes, but if we end up with three survey submissions in the inbox, I guess that’s it. We need to have a critical mass and we need numbers of people that are really passionate about it and want to get into it, and think that it is a good idea.”