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There are two smells I absolutely love in the spring time. The first is the smell of the first rain of the year, the second is the smell of the sagebrush in the hills. The smell is most distinctly noticed when you step out of the vehicle for the annual open house at the Sagebrush Studies & Art Galleries during the first weekend in June. Perhaps it is because of the steady stream of vehicles traveling through the gallery parking lot in the South Saskatchewan River Hills that helps the subtle scent to waft through the air with an increased presence.

Dean and Fran Francis have established their Gallery and Studios on a secluded hilltop of the South Saskatchewan River surrounded by the land and wildlife that inspire his art.  The site currently includes 3 restored churches, two serve as galleries and the other is a working studio. 

June 2 and 3, 2012 they are hosting the 12th annual open house/artist reception, which approximately 500 people visit year.  Both of the images displayed above are Dean’s 2012 collection that will be displayed throughout the three churches. In addition to completing their artworks, and renovating the buildings on site, Dean and Fran have a beautiful yard complete with gardens and water features.

According to information provided on their informative website, approximately 50 species of trees & shrubs now flourish in this ever changing enhancement.  Visitors are invited to explore 20 acres of  Prairie Gardens, Walkways, and water features that now surround the rescued then restored ‘Church Galleries. It is easy to make your visit a full day trip, plan to listen to some live music on the site. That’s Empressive, located to the west in the nearby community of Empress, and Spruce Creek Antiques and Collectibles, located south of Leader, host an open house on the same weekend.

Good to know:
There is also usually a wine bar set up as well, so bring some cash to buy a glass and sip as you wander through the galleries and yards. Remember if you are driving please sip responsibly.

The open house and artist reception is from 10 am – 5 pm

Check the weather forecast. If it is raining call the gallery and find out what the roads are like. We will make sure to update you with a road report as well.

How to get there:
You must be comfortable driving on gravel road. Depending on the direction you are arriving from their are different directions to follow. Please consult the map. Just remember to watch for the signage in the ditch. The three communities that your directions may begin from are Leader, Empress or Eatonia.

Gotta Go:
There are public washrooms on site. They are nestled in near the two galleries on the west side of the yard near the Pickham Studio and Mendham Gallery. They are a step up from an outhouse, but they function for the purpose they are meant to serve, the toilets flush and you can wash your hands.

What to bring:
Bring your wallet, even if you go to just browse and not to buy you will still be tempted. Make sure you have some cash in it as well. When you drive to Empress, if you stop at the United Church they will be hosting their annual Strawberry Tea and Bake Sale.

Mosquito repellant, depending on how the season progresses they may already be out in full force.