This post is centred on specific arts and crafts organizations in Saskatoon and Regina but I have included mentions of selected other organizations who sponsored arts and crafts shows and education in the years prior to 1950. While my source is only Saskatoon and Regina newspapers, there was one provincial institution which got coverage in both newspapers, even though most of its work was in rural areas.
The Homemaker’s Institute aka Homemakers’ Clubs began in 1911 and was overseen by the Department of Household Science at the University of Saskatchewan. Initially the Institutes were concerned with scientific homemaking courses and workshops but I have come across a few of their reports made at annual conventions which show how heavily this organization was involved in handicraft group organization in rural areas in the 1930s.
From the 1920s to 1940s the Homemakers Clubs (known generally in Canada as Women’s Institutes) were often the centre of rural social life and art and craft activities went on in their club rooms. For example, Bertha Oxner, the Director of Women’s Work at the University of Saskatchewan, organized art exhibits and art education materials that were circulated in rural locations or donated to clubs in the 1930s.
This is a selection of articles which will highlight this aspect of their activities. Jun 20, 1924 SP (this is only a headline, the rest is illegible, but it gives an idea of the interest in arts and crafts at an early stage), Jun 30, 1933 LP, Jun 11, 1937 SSP are two reports from annual Homemakers’ conventions. Nov. 9, 1950 LP is a report on the development of a local club in Melfort. Nov. 9, 1950 SP shows how the Homemakers’ Clubs arts and crafts sections eventually came under the purview of the Saskatchewan Arts Board.
For more information on the Homemakers’ Clubs of Saskatchewan see: Women’s Organizations in Saskatchewan– Report for Culture Youth and Recreation by Dr. A. Leger –Anderson, 31 March 2005 online at http://www.pcs.gov.sk.ca/Women’sOrgs , pp. 33-44.
The Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society 1923-1946
This society grew out of the Saskatoon LCW Arts Committee. In fact, when the Arts and Crafts Society was established as such, the LCW Arts Committee ceased existence for some time. The LCW Arts Committee was established in Saskatoon about 1922 and the few shows it held indicated that the direction of interest was the promotion of handicrafts. In order to accomplish their aims the Arts and Crafts Society became a separate, but affiliated body of the LCW in 1924. Organized and run by Vivian Morton, the wife of Arthur S. Morton, historian at the University of Saskatchewan with the honorary assistance of Christina Murray, the wife of University of Saskatchewan’s first president Walter Murray, the focus was not on members of the association making crafts but on concerns raised by the University’s Historical Association. The Historical Association worried about the disappearance of traditional craft items as modernization took place and was attempting to collect items which might not be produced in the future. Source for this is Cheryl Meszaros, Visibility and Representation: Saskatchewan Art Organizations prior to 1945, Queen’s University Master of Arts Thesis (1990)P.42-43
In her thesis, Meszaros quotes the constitution of the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Committee, found in the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society papers at the Saskatchewan Archives, Saskatoon, regarding their objectives:
- To encourage, retain, revive and develop arts and crafts
- To prevent the loss, extinction and deterioration of the same
- To aid people skilled in any such crafts by providing a market for their products
- To educate the public to the value of arts, industries and crafts and of good handiwork.
The idea was to support and maintain the production of traditional crafts, particularly those made by what were termed New Canadians and indigenous people. I guess the assumption was that the predominantly English culture of Saskatoon was not “new” but no one seems to have referred to anyone as Old Canadians. The Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society held most of their functions in the YWCA building in Saskatoon, like many other womens’ clubs.
Meszaros’ thesis highlights the marketing achievements of this finely tuned organization and the assistance they provided to poor farm women during the depression by paying them for their work, but also the problematic around a WASP group of university- educated society ladies dictating patterns and designs to multi-cultural artisans in order to make their work more palatable or saleable to a WASP audience.
Nonetheless, they provided an example of how to run a craft society by providing educational programs for their members and the public. Western Producer journalist Violet McNaughton was a member of this organization in the 1930s and she and Luta Munday were in charge of obtaining the indigenous peoples’ crafts. Luta Munday was a bit of a writer and you can see the problematic public attitudes in some of her publications in the newspaper. She was concerned about maintaining the integrity of indigenous crafts but she also personally displays the prejudices and misunderstandings that this type of arrangement led to. eg. Nov. 17, 1931 report of a speech and Dec. 19, 1933 and Dec. 16, 1935 SP articles written by Munday.
The Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society became quite famous in Canada for its work and was invited to join the Canadian Handicrafts Guild, headquartered in Montreal. The group declined the invitation because they felt they already had a high profile and did not want to lose it by affiliating with the national crafts organization. Lack of raw materials for workers, war chaos and the aging of the Society members caused the demise of this group after World War II. There is an article on the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society in Saskatchewan History written by Sandra Flood, well known Canadian craft academic and a former resident of Saskatchewan, but I don’t have access to her discussion of this club. There is a full archival record for the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society at the Saskatchewan Archives Board in Saskatoon.
I would add that the Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Society was the only group in the city who sponsored what could be called solo shows of individual painters, although that was not their purpose. They provided this honour to Hilda J. Stewart in 1935 and to Augustus Kenderdine in 1936 when both artists were leaving the city. Hilda Stewart returned to Saskatoon in 1936 to replace Kenderdine at the University of Saskatchewan as art instructor after the latter left for Regina.
The activities of the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society were well-covered by the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix in the Women’s pages of the newspaper. Vivian Morton, often the president of this club, was also active with the Saskatoon Art Association and later the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Apr. 4, 1957 She received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1962. May 11, 1962 SSP
Presidents of the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society: List compiled from reading newspaper articles.
1929/30 Mrs. Roy Todd
1930/31 Mrs. A.S. Morton
1931/32 Mrs. A. S. Morton
1932/33 Mrs. A. S. Morton
1933/34 Mrs. F. Garnet Hopper
1934/35 to 1938/39 Mrs. A.S. Morton
1940/41 Mrs. G. A. Bonney
1941/42 Mrs. G.R. Peterson
1942/43 to 1945/46 Mrs. A.S. Morton
Chronological list of articles found in the Google News Archive with some additions from old clippings unavailable at the Archive reproduced here:
Nov. 16, 1923 SP, May 31, 1924( scroll right), Jun 13, 1924, Jun 13, 1924, SP – These articles are mostly illegible but the headlines contribute to the story of the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society. Newspaper issues for 1925 and 1926 are unavailable and a lot are missing in the 1920s.
Jan. 22, 1935 SP, Feb 13, 1935, Feb. 15(see illustration), Feb. 18, Feb. 19, 1935, Mar. 19, 1935 SP, Apr. 16, 1935 SP, May 4, 1935, May 17, 1935, Oct. 22, 1935, SP, Nov. 16, 1935, Dec. 6, 1935, Dec. 10, Dec. 14, 1935, Dec. 16, 1935 SP,
The Saskatoon Craft Guild 1942– post 1951. This is a club comprised of craftspeople who showed their own work. Initially, the club was devoted to making petit point embroideries, taught by instructor Mrs. T. H. Johnson who lived in Saskatoon in the early 1940s. Later the club began meeting at the Saskatoon Technical School and the range of crafts broadened to include pottery and other pursuits. I found these reports about this club, in addition to the short ones illustrated below : May 15, 1942 SP, May 22, 1942, May 13, 1943, May 18, 1944, May 11, 1945, May 19, 1945, May 11, 1946, Oct. 2, 1946, May 6, 1948 SP, May 11, 1949, SP, May 9, 1950 SP is a photo story, May 9, 1951 SP.
List of presidents compiled from reading newspaper articles.
1943 – Mrs. Roy Ruemper
1944 – Mrs. Charles Blake
1945 – Mrs. W.H. Bouskill
1946 – Mrs. J.G. Wilkinson
1947 – Mrs. Vern Welker
1948 – Mrs. C. Kargut
1949- Mrs. R. Pepper
1950 – Miss Lenore Jantz
1951- Mrs. D.H. Fast
The Ukrainian Women’s Association of Saskatoon 1934-present
With a very large presence in the prairie provinces by 1920, people of Ukrainian ethnicity began forming music and arts associations early on. The Saskatoon Ukrainian Women’s Association seems to have come into being in the 1930s, if you judge by the newspaper reports. By 1938 they were already announcing that they were collecting items for a future museum. The Saskatoon Association was affiliated with the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada, who in turn was affiliated with local and national Councils of Women. Begun as a social club, this group was not an arts organization per se but they seem to have decided that their handicraft committee could represent the arts of their cultural background more fully than the Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Society whose prime focus was marketing. I noticed a number of articles on their activities so I have included them in this discussion because their activities led to the formation of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada in Saskatoon. http://www.umc.sk.ca/page/about#history
What little material the Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Society must have collected for the Historical Museum at the University of Saskatchewan was likely destroyed when that museum had a fire in the late 1940s. It is a very good thing that someone else was also doing the collecting.
Mar. 17, 1934 SP, Jul 5 & 6, 1935, Jun 21, 1937, Jul 16, 1937, Dec 15, 1937, Dec 10 & 19, 1938, Dec 9 & 18, 1939, Sep 17, 1940, Dec. 14, 1940, Feb 18, 1941, Dec 22, 1941, Dec. 21, 1942, Mar 13, 1945, I can’t find any announcements of craft displays during most of the war years and after. Mar. 5, 1949 SP.
The Ukrainian Women’s Association’s museum collection was held by the community in the Mohoyla Institute for many years before a purpose built museum was erected in 1979. Mrs. Rose Dragan, active since the Association’s early days, was an instrumental figure in pushing the creation of a physical space for the collection forward. She was a weaver and also wrote books on Ukrainian handicraft. She was honoured for her efforts. Rose Dragan was also a member of the Saskatoon Arts& Crafts Society.
The Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists has produced an exhibit of Ukrainian arts and crafts which can be viewed online.
German Canadian Association 1934
Like the Ukrainian Association, the German Canadian Association was an ethnic social club but in early July, 1934 there was some coverage of an arts and crafts show which they arranged in Saskatoon at Eaton’s Department Store. Jun 29, 1934, Jul 3, 1934, Jul 6, 1934, SP Jul 6, 1934 LP
Saskatoon has a German Canadian social club to this day called the Concordia Club. Mention is made of this club in this poster for German Canadian day which appeared in the July 4, 1936 edition of the Star-Phoenix. The cutline says that the German Canadian Reunion, as it was called, had been in existence for 7 years, meaning that this club was probably formed in 1929.
The German ethnic group had a difficult time in Saskatchewan from World War I onwards and the activities of their social and cultural organizations may have been deliberately omitted from the news owing to the suspicions and hatreds developed during the two world wars about enemy cultures. People of German extraction were often subjected to internment during the wars if their activities were deemed ‘suspicious.’
In 2009 the original 1957 Concordia Club building burned to the ground and many artifacts and documents from the early days of the association were lost according to pp.44-47 of above magazine article. But a new Concordia Club has since risen from the ashes.
Early Regina craft organizations included the Regina Handicraft Guild, est. 1908. See my post under The Craftsmen Ltd. and the WAA Fine and Applied Arts committee or Guild, 1930-1945. See the discussion about the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan in a separate post.
Other independent craft organizations in Regina were the following:
Regina Arts & Crafts Society 1937-1950
This society seems to have been an outgrowth of the Saskatchewan Women’s Art Association Fine and Applied Arts Guild, which was formed in the early 1930s. The guild, a committee of the WAA, was primarily interested in crafts and continued to operate alongside, but separately, from the Regina Arts & Crafts Society, although some members belonged to both groups. I base my assumption on the origin of this group from the fact that many of the new Arts& Crafts executive members were formerly on that WAA committee. The Regina Arts & Crafts Society was affiliated with the Canadian Handicraft Guild, unlike the Women’s Art Association’s Fine and Applied Arts Guild. (This terminology is confusing but I am basing this distinction on one made in Cheryl Meszaros, Visibility and Representation: Saskatchewan Art Organizations prior to 1945, Queen’s University Master of Arts Thesis, 1990, p. 63). The Society held membership teas in the fall, usually October, had demonstrations, classes and lectures throughout the winter and held a large craft show and sale every spring, usually March or April. They also helped to host incoming shows, did some exhibiting at the annual fairs and sent work out to shows sponsored by the Canadian Handicraft Guild.
The association, unlike its Saskatoon counterpart, was composed primarily of craftspeople and the range of crafts on display was dictated by their interests. Shows included everything from needlework and fibre arts, leather tooling, woodcarving and china painting to oil paintings. The crafts they produced were reflective of their urban WASP membership and did not represent the multiplicity of ethnicities then living in Regina and the surrounding countryside. Although they made items for sale, they were primarily a club concerned with companionship and learning and exposing the public to the work of contemporary artisans in Regina. The WAA FAAG, on the other hand, initially modelled themselves on the Saskatoon Arts and Craft Society in the sense that they showed the work of a variety of ethnic groups in their early exhibitions, performing educative work by doing so. However, neither of the Regina groups managed craft workers in the way the Saskatoon organization did because artisans were running these organizations.
Apr 24, 1943 (two articles on opposite pages)
Apr 22, 1944 LP
Regina Arts & Crafts Society Presidents
1937/38 – Miss E. Don Cathro
1938/39 – Mrs. J. C. Black
1939/40 -Mrs. Stewart Adrain
1940/41 –Mrs. Stewart Adrain
1941/42 – Mrs. Stewart Adrain
1942/43 – Mrs. J.D. Rowand
1943/44 – Mrs. W. G. Currie
1944/45 – Mrs. N.C. Elborne
1945/46 – Mrs. Harold F. Thomson
1946/47 – Mrs. Harold F. Thomson
1947/48 – Mrs. R. B. Van Iderstine
1948/49 – Mrs. R. B. Van Iderstine
1949/50 – Mrs. G.B. Munro
The Regina Handicraft Centre 1940-1945, possibly longer
This was a civically sponsored institution which provided a space for handicrafts to be taught to children. It received a lot of press in these years but I didn’t notice much afterward. Sometimes there were shows and sales offered at Handicraft House, which eventually found a home on Hamilton street after moving around a bit in the earlier years.
©Lisa G. Henderson