Across the South Saskatchewan River from the brand new Remai Modern Art Gallery of Saskatchewan is a lesser known, $10 million art gallery, dedicated to high school students who fought and died in the First and Second World Wars.
By the end of the First World War, 29 students from then-Saskatoon Collegiate lost their lives on the battlefield. In March of 1919, students from the school chose to remember their fallen classmates through a memorial art gallery, while also choosing art from Canadian artists to help foster an appreciation of the arts.
The fundraising for the paintings was led by the students. When the idea came forward, the student Literary Society executive chose to create a joint stock company, where fellow classmates could buy stocks to fundraise and partially own the art gallery. By 1926, the art gallery had collected 29 paintings, and on the bottom of each frame, a bronze plaque was added to display the name of a fallen soldier.
As time went on, the school became Nutana Collegiate and continued to acquire more paintings, through purchase or donation, and today, there are more than 90 paintings that stretch down a hallway and in the school's Memorial Library. There is also a large bronze plaque that displays the names of each student who died during the First World War outside the library, and in later years a second bronze plaque was added to remember sacrifices made by another 93 students in the Second World War.
Teacher Shelley Hosaluk says the artwork has played a large role in creating a sense of belonging among students. She says students from all walks of life have been able to bond with other students over not just the art, but through remembrance.
Hosaluk is in the midst of a class project where Grade 12 students research and critique the original 29 paintings dedicated to the fallen soldiers. She says the students are also required to, "examine the life of the soldier, who the soldier was, and why a group of young people nearly 100 years ago thought it was important to remember these (soldiers) who lost their lives". She says the project has been "powerful" for the students so far.
Hosaluk says when the students look at the paintings, she hopes, "students understand the importance of living in a democracy, and that our freedom is not something to be taken for granted, and that the people before us lost their lives for that freedom."
Hosaluk adds that the art gallery isn't open to the public year-round because it's located inside a school, but they do hold some events after school during the year where people have a chance to see the art.
Nutana Collegiate has put up pictures of the various works in the art gallery on a website. You can find those pictures and more information at http://nutanaart.blogspot.ca/