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Our Origins

The Saskatchewan Foundation For the Arts follows in the province’s long tradition of social innovation, philanthropy and cooperation. The first public arts funding agency in North America, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, was established by the government of Saskatchewan in 1948. Saskatchewan was also a leader in funding arts and culture through lottery funds, a rarity still in Canada today.

In the late 1980s the province established the Arts Strategy Task Force, a working group that studied ways to provide a more unified focus for provincial arts policy and funding. From the group’s report came a recommendation to establish an endowment to hold gifts and bequests for the benefit of the arts, something that the Arts Board at the time was unable to do. By the Arts Board’s fiftieth anniversary in 1998, the groundwork for establishing the Saskatchewan Foundation For the Arts was laid.

Jane Turnbull Evans, the Arts Board’s Visual Arts Officer and Keeper of Collections, and Claire Kramer discussed the concept of forming an organization that would turn to the public at large for financial support of artists in the province. This idea was supported and encouraged by Valerie Creighton, the then Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Jane formed a steering committee of patrons of the arts and undertook a public consultation that found wide support to move forward. She initiated the research on governance and operational options for the establishment of a foundation, supported by and yet separate and distinct from the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

Jane was passionate in her belief that long-term sustainable funding for the arts and artists could be secured by establishing a public foundation. The Foundation would be financed by private money and would provide a way for those who value and enjoy the arts to demonstrate their appreciation and support by investing in the future of the Saskatchewan arts community through the establishment of endowments. The Foundation would complement public funding and the work of the larger arts community and be independent of government funding and control.

Just before her death in 1998, Jane had completed the strategy for the establishment of the Foundation, ultimately leading to the passage of The Saskatchewan Foundation For the Arts Act in the provincial legislature through a Private Members Bill. The Bill received Royal Assent on May 6, 1999.

After Jane’s passing the vision for a Foundation was taken up by her husband Richard Spafford. He honoured Jane’s legacy by working with the steering committee to form the Founding Board of Trustees, personally financed the early administration and facilitated a generous donation to a successful art auction which seeded the Foundation’s growth.

In 2006, the Foundation gained charitable status, and began making awards in 2007. Awards have been made in years when funds were available from the growing endowment, or when funds had been donated to support annual competitions. By the end of 2020, the Foundation had $1.2 million in endowed funds and had supported fifty artists with awards amounting to $225,000 aligned with the criteria of the six named endowment funds.

The future is bright. In 2021 the Foundation grew its endowed funds to $2.2 million and announced the establishment of the largest literary award in Saskatchewan, the Glengarry Book Award. We are grateful for the support of our many visionaries, trailblazers, donors, and supporters who turned a vision into a reality, and who support the continued growth for the benefit of all people and artists in Saskatchewan.

Thank you to the founding, past and current members of the Board of Trustees who have given generously of their financial resources, time, energy and talents as volunteers.