Emma Lake arts campus closed, future under review, U of S says

The University of Saskatchewan is closing its campus at Emma Lake, north of Prince Albert, for three years.

Expensive repairs too much for university to handle

The Emma Lake campus is famous for its Artists' Workshop. (University of Saskatchewan)

The University of Saskatchewan is closing its campus at Emma Lake, north of Prince Albert, for three years.

In a news release issued Thursday, the university said all arts and ecology courses at the Kenderdine campus are suspended, effective immediately, because the facility is in disrepair.

According to the university, the campus has been in operation since 1935 and needs significant improvements.

The university did not say exactly how much money was needed, but said the cost would be millions of dollars.

"We simply don't have the funds at this time to make the significant capital investment that this campus needs in order to be running effectively," Greg Fowler, from the university's administrative arm, said in the release. "In a time of budget restraint, we need to be very strategic."

Fowler said the move to close Emma Lake was unfortunate.

The campus is about 50 kilometres north of Prince Albert and consists of buildings on a forested peninsula at a resort lake.

While famous for its Artists' Workshop, it is also a retreat location and conference centre.

Closing the campus will save the university $167,000 per year in operating costs.

According to the university, during the most recent term the campus saw about 200 students attend different courses at Emma Lake.

The university said the suspension of courses will run for three years, through to 2016, at which time the future of the campus will be "re-examined."

International praise

Artistic courses and workshops at Emma Lake have won international praise.

According to an online article about the province's visual art history, prepared by the Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists, the arts community has been profoundly affected by activities at Emma Lake, especially in the 1960s.

"Key to the Saskatchewan renaissance at this time were the Emma Lake Professional Workshops run by the Regina Arts College of the University of Saskatchewan from 1955 to 1973," the article noted. It began with the creation of a yearly two-week long workshop for professional artists.

"Attended by students from across North America and Europe, the workshops had a profound impact on those Saskatchewan artists who attended," the article noted. "Among the most influenced of the local artists were the acclaimed Regina Five painters, and sculptors Vic Cicansky and Joe Fafard."