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I’m happy to be putting something back in the community where I started my working career. It took almost sixty years to get back here. – Bill Shurniak

When you hear that someone from Saskatchewan has a private collection of art that they’d like to share with their hometown, chances are (if you’re like me), you think small.

A photo taken by Habeeb Salloum taken from a travelogue written about the area. (click on the photo to read the travelogue)

Nothing prepared me for the wonderous works of beauty that I’d find in the Schurniak Art Gallery located in the small town of Assiniboia, SK.

It’s a collection gathered together by Bill Shurniak, a former resident of nearby Limerick who got his start in the banking industry working for the CIBC as a teller in Assiniboia. A career that would eventually lead him to Hong Kong (and eventually Australia) for 35 years managing the bank’s Asia-Pacific Region, and travelling the world.  It was during these travels that he amassed a collection of more than 500 original works of art. Upon his return to the area nearly 60 years after he had left, he looked to see how he could showcase that collection in a way that would benefit the community that gave him his start.

Each of the paintings that I have in my collection is reminiscent of places I’ve been, people I’ve met, and artists I’ve come to know – some of whom are now personal friends,” he says. 

Courtesy of the Shurniak Gallery

While you would think that a single individual’s personal collection would all fall under one particular genre of style or taste, the sheer vast scope of the collection has me seriously wanting to meet Mr. Schurniak in person – for a person with that width and breadth of interests surely must be interesting himself.  Something that was confirmed when I read the interview done by  Steven Ross Smith for the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance.  Read it here.

During my brief but memorable visit to the Shurniak during a video shoot, I was fortunate to have had an almost private tour of the collection with Gail Mergen, the Gallery’s General Manager and Assistant Curator, who gave me some great insight into some of the pieces and pointed out some of the more famous works including works by the infamous Group of Seven, and the oldest piece hailing from 1638 by a Dutch Baroque era painter by the name of Jacob Esselens (whose work hangs in the Louvre in Paris, the New York Metropolitan Museum, the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, and the Shurniak Gallery in Assiniboia <- see why it’s kinda a big deal?).  It also features sculptures by Robert Davidson and Joe Fafard, like this awesome little pony who sits outside the Gallery’s entrance.

A sculpture by Canadian Sculptor Joe Fafard

Some of the other works included in the Gallery which is set up like a large house with multiple rooms include:

  • Canadian Artists:  Allen Sapp, Arthur Lismer, James Henderson, and A.Y. Jackson
  • International works include paintings, scrolls, furniture and rugs from China, Southeast Asia, Iran, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Tibet.
  • Many paintings and carvings by Australian Aboriginal artists.
  • Works by European artists including glass sculptures by Loredano Rosin of Venice.

Unfortunately random picture taking is generally discouraged in the Shurniak, to better preserve the paintings, otherwise I would be showering you with some of my favourites.  Guess you’ll just have to GoHere and check it out for yourself!

But here’s a sneak peak – taken by last year’s Saskatchewanderer – Andrew Konoff, but you can read about this year’s Saskatchewanderer’s Jeff Stock’s take on the Shurniak here.

A photo of the interior of the Shurniak Gallery – taken by “Saskatchewanderer” Jeff Stock

How to GoHere:  You can see our previous post on Assiniboia’s Prentice Collection (which is just around the corner from the Shurniak) or use this map here to get there from Moose Jaw.

Gotta Go?:  The Shurniak has an elegant bathroom that goes with the rest of it’s surroundings!

Good to Know: Admission to this wonderful Gallery is FREE (though donations are gladly welcomed!).

It’s hours are quite liberal:
Tuesday through Saturday: 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Sunday: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm (April – December)
Closed Mondays. Open most Saturdays on holiday weekends.
Please call (306) 642-5292 to inquire.

An extensive library of art books is available for visitors to browse on the premises. Enjoy a few leisurely hours with beautiful books in a lovely setting.

And If you’re feeling a little peckish while visiting the Gallery you can have a cuppa at New Beginnings – a little tea shop located inside the doors to the gallery which features specialty coffees, teas, desserts, homemade granola, and healthy alternatives from 10:00 to 4:30.