Joe Fafard is an internationally acclaimed artist who was born in the small farming community of Ste. Marthe, Saskatchewan in 1942.When he was a boy growing up on the farm, he would draw pictures of horses in his spare moments. People began to notice his ability to sketch animals and told him he would be an artist someday. Some of his most well-known works are tied to his rural prairie roots, such his bronze sculptures of cows that are displayed in many public places in major cities across Canada.
Fafard received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Manitoba in 1966, and then earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1968. He taught art at the Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan from 1968 to 1974, but left teaching to settle in the small community of Pense, just west of Regina, where he became a full-time sculptor. Fafard was part of a significant art movement in Saskatchewan that pushed back against the dominance of abstract artwork in the sixties and seventies. The Saskatchewan branch of this movement was greatly influenced by California Funk artists such as David Gilhooly.
In the 1970s, Fafard used clay as a medium for much of his sculptures. His career took a new direction in the early 1980s when he won a major commission to create a public art installation at the Toronto-Dominion Bank building in downtown Toronto. Entitled The Pasture, his casting in bronze of cows grazing on what was once a pasture was a success. In 1985 he established a foundry in Pense, producing numerous insightful and often humorous ceramic and bronze works of people and animals that reveal his close connections with Prairie life. He passed away in his home located just outside of Lumsden, Saskatchewan, in 2019 from stomach cancer.
Fafard was the recipient of numerous awards throughout his life, including the Order of Canada (1981), the Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Award (1987), the Saskatchewan Order of Merit (2002), the National Prix Montfort (2003), and the Lieutenant Governor’s Saskatchewan Centennial Medal for the Arts (2005). He has also received honorary Doctorates from both the Universities of Regina and Manitoba.