"Betting on Saskatchewan" : Nationalism, Cultural Imperialism and the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops
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The Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops from the 1950s to the 1970s were a series of professional workshops held in northern Saskatchewan, under the auspices of the University of Saskatchewan and Regina College, for the creation and advancement of a dynamic arts culture in the province and as a way for the individual artists there to overcome feelings of isolation from the Canadian cultural hubs. Throughout the course of the Workshops provincial and federal attitudes, and cultural policies and perspectives on cultural nation building exerted an overarching influence in the shaping of the Workshops. The Workshops drew the attention and support of many established celebrity U.S. artists and it is due to their presence and influence at the Workshops that it is possible to examine the provincial and national response to perceived U.S. cultural imperialism. The founding and maturity of the Workshops is a case study of the ways in which the politics of Canadian nationalism and the effects of U.S. cultural imperialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries interacted to impact the growth and development of art communities across Canada. The Workshops serve as an example of the effects, on a regional art movement, of Canada’s relationship with the United States, and Canadian response to the perceived threat of cultural imperialism from the U.S. Because the Workshops were a microcosm of cultural production, involving artists who, aside from their participation at Emma Lake, were often fairly isolated from the ebb and flow of art currents inherent to larger cultural centers, the Workshops are also an important case study of the effects of national and provincial policy on the regional arts. The Workshops’ history reveals that ideas of nationalism, regionalism and continentalism can come together to have a profound and unique effect on the development of an art community.