The CCF implemented a number of radical reforms such as transforming health care, education, resource management, and created Canada’s first publicly funded arts granting body, The Saskatchewan Arts Board (SAB), in 1955. The expressionist-influenced self-portrait of Macgregor Hone, was the first purchase for the SAB’s collection, a clear indication of their forward-thinking mindset, anticipating their continuing support for the province’s contemporary artists.
The SAB, together with the province’s universities, supported the growth of a summer arts program at Emma Lake. Had been started by Augustus Kenderdine in the 1930’s, the program brought in internationally known artists and critics for workshops with Saskatchewan artists. Several of the province’s emerging male artists who participated in the program, including Ronald Bloore, Roy Kiyooka, Kenneth Lochhead and William Perehudoff, embraced a trend towards large-scale abstract painting and sculpture. Large-scale sculpture by their contemporaries Douglas Benthan, Don Foulds, and John Nugent, can be seen in the Mackenzie’s outdoor permanent sculpture garden. Nugent’s maquette for an unrealized monumental minimalist sculpture commemorating Louis Riel can be seen in this gallery. The women participants in the same Emma Lake workshops, Reta Cowley, Dorothy Knowles, and Wynona Mulcaster continued, for the most part, to explore the province’s landscapes, but with a new vitality—or in Lorraine Malach’s case, with a brooding forbearance. During these same years, younger Indigenous artists such as Bob Boyer, Ruth Cuthand, Sheila Orr and Edward Poitras, began exploring large scale painterly abstraction in innovative and dynamic works that drew on their traditions and identity with a new freedom of expression.
During the last decades of the twentieth century, a growing skepticism of modernist ambitions began to arise within social movements, the arts, and society at large. What we have come to know as post-modernism, has had its impact in Saskatchewan as elsewhere. Turning their back on high modernist abstraction, a generation of artists—first working in clay and later in other media—embraced popular culture and regional identity in works that drew more on local folk-artists or traditional practices than on international art trends. This trend can be seen in works by Joe Fafard, David Thauberger, Ruth Cuthand, and Edward Poitras.