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Art in the community

Colourful mosaic murals and brilliant flower beds welcome guests to Doreen Kalmakoff’s art studio near Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan. ‘Spirit of the Prairie’ has become a well-known art and teaching studio and students come to this peaceful, rural location for instruction, inspiration, and encouragement to follow their artistic dreams.

“I always encourage my students to pursue what’s in their hearts, and to take classes that will lead them to their goals. I think it’s important to keep those dreams alive,” she says.

Kalmakoff grew up on a small farm in northwest Saskatchewan and taught school in the area. After marrying, she put her career on hold while she and her husband John (also a teacher/farmer) raised their two sons. “Being a stay-at-home mom afforded me the opportunity to take some art classes when I wasn’t coaching sports, cooking for hired men or operating the combine at harvest.”

Kalmakoff returned to teaching after their two boys entered university, and it was about this time her dream of seriously pursuing art began to unfold.

After retiring from teaching school, Kalmakoff created her home-based art-teaching studio. Advertising initially brought a number of local students, then word of mouth led to interest from surrounding communities.

Through the years, her art has branched off in a variety of areas including murals, mosaics, decorative floor mats and hypertufa garden art. “People are looking at art for other areas of their homes and gardens, not just on the wall. “About 10 years ago the mosaic bug got me. With mosaic, there’s no such thing as failure, and people of all ages can create something personal or something they enjoy.

Kalmakoff’s paintings lean toward abstract. “I like to create narrative in my paintings by establishing a mood, and through the use of line, and repetition of colour and shape, the paintings become a visual journey for the viewer. Because the faces are not realistic, the viewer can define the mood,” she says.

A show this year at the Station Arts Centre in Rosthern featured a portraiture series by Kalmakoff, representing Prairie people. “I wanted to honour the courage of pioneer women and how their decision to come to this country made a future for all of us,” she says.

Kalmakoff has been involved in murals in several communities since 2005, Saskatchewan’s centennial year, when she was asked by one of the town’s shopkeepers to jazz up her building with a mural for the town’s centennial celebrations. “As the mural developed, other businesses asked to have one done.”

Kalmakoff’s efforts to promote art in the community also led her to organize a rural art tour to showcase the artisans and home-based businesses in the area. ‘12-40 and Beyond — An Adventure in Rural Life’ is an annual, self-guided, two-day tour in July which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year (visit www.12-40andbeyond.com).

She finds great satisfaction in teaching and taking art into the community. “Teaching the basics first is so important — basic skills and materials to use and how to use them. I like to lay a foundation of knowledge and have students build on that. I respect each person’s individual creativity and help them develop their potential,” Kalmakoff says.

As well as having a rewarding art career, she says her greatest joy is her family. “My family’s always been very important to me. My greatest joy today is having our family together and having all seven grandchildren painting around a big table in the studio,” she says.

For more information about her art, contact Doreen Kalmakoff: (306) 497-2801; email: [email protected]

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