International Writers Magazine: Canada Arts
Art Gallery plays host to Canada's Pioneers
"You will not believe it! Its one of Canadas great
museums here in the heart of the prairies." Patricia, a Saskatchewan
tourist official commented as we stopped in front of the Shurniak
Art Gallery, in Assiniboia, - a small town of some 2,305 souls that
caters to a farm population in the surrounding countryside. She
went on, "Would you have thought that this small town would
have a fine art gallery?"
The Shurniak Art
Gallery would not exist today except for the vision of one man: William
Bill Shurniak of Polish heritage born near Assiniboia. He grew up on
a family farm south of the town of Limerick, and began his illustrious
career in Assiniboia as a junior clerk in the Imperial Bank of Canada.
In the ensuing years he held various positions in this bank across Canada
and later assuming international positions in numerous countries. In
1984 he became Executive Director of the Hutchinson Whampoa Ltd. in
Hong Kong working for this firm for 20 years.
During his distinguished career Shurniaks love for art never was
far away from his mind. Throughout the years he collected an enormous
amount of antiques and artwork pieces. However, while collecting these
precious pieces he always had his place of birth in mind and after he
retired he decided to bring his collection back home.
When Shurniak retired from the world of banking and finance he decided
to build an art gallery in Assiniboia, about an hours drive south
of Moose Jaw. He dedicated it to the memory of his parents, John and
Anna Shurniak and other pioneers that suffered the hardships of homesteading
in the Saskatchewan prairies, especially during the Great Depression
of the 1930s. He donated $1 million to build the gallery that houses
his collection of some 500 valuable artefacts, paintings and sculptures
amassed during a lifetime of world travel.
gallery consists of seven excellent exhibit rooms, a tearoom, landscaped
courtyard, gardens, offices and outdoor sculptures. All offices
and rooms are named after former and existing villages as well as
municipalities in the area. As an example, the Maritas Tearoom
is named after the Rural Municipality of Old Post where Bill's parents
With the opening
of Shurniak Art Gallery on July 30, 2005, Assiniboia left its former
unsophisticated small town image behind. The gallery became the most
important tourist attraction in the area, attracting art lovers even
from overseas, making the town an art mecca on the map of southern Saskatchewan.
The relatively small town of Assiniboia in rural Saskatchewan has suddenly
become very important in the world of Canadian art. The gallery features
the works of important artists from the four corners of the world such
as A.J. Casson, A.Y. Jackson, Lawren Harris, Arthur Lismer and Allen
Sapp. As well, there are on display a fine collection of Canadian contemporary
art by south Saskatchewan artists featured on a rotation basis. The
displays are changed from time to time to give different artists a chance
to be seen by the public.
Visitors enjoy an all around the world art experience -
a blend of international and Canadian art and artefacts such as the
Group of Seven paintings, as well as art works from Asia, America and
Even though Bill Shurniak retired in 1997 he is still actively involved
in the directorship with the companies for which he worked. As well,
he enjoys classical music, reading and the outdoors - his love of nature
has taken him hiking through most of the mountain ranges in the world.
When we chatted with Bill Shurniak he imbued an aura of maturity, kindness
and gentleness. A fine distinguished man loaded with history, he believes
in humankind and wanted his gallery to reflect himself. In his own words:
"I want the gallery to be a place where people will feel free to
visit frequently; [a place] a place they will be able to linger, relax,
and enjoy the paintings." He continued, "Art is to be appreciated
by people of all walks of life."
Today, Bill resides at times in Australia but mostly at his familys
farm near Limerick. Several years ago he restored the original family
home located on 30 acres of land but he also had another home built
on the property as his retreat and for family gatherings.
He wanted to spend his life near his art gallery in which he and the
town of Assiniboia have a deep interest. The memory of the early settlers
in the Assiniboia area who came from very diverse backgrounds from many
countries, by way of the art collection in the Shurniak Art Gallery
will be preserved. The museum is an enshrinement of the history of pioneering
on the south Saskatchewan prairies.
For More Information, Contact:
Shurniak Art Gallery, 122-3rd Avenue West, Box 1178, Assiniboia, Saskatchewan
Canada S0H 0B0. Tel: (306) 642-5292. Fax: (306) 642-4541. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shurniak Art Gallerys Maritas Tearoom, in addition to the
displays, the Gallerys tearoom offers light lunches as well as
homemade cakes and pies, herbal teas, and specialty coffees - the only
true cappuccinos and lattes in town.
Note: There are no fees to tour the Shurniak Art Gallery, which is open
six days per week year round.
© Habeeb Salloum September 2008
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