Community & Collaboration at the Artesian

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Nestled in the heart of Regina’s Cathedral neighbourhood is a small, historic building with a big, purposeful mission. Although the Artesian might be known to some as simply a concert venue, Managing Director Dana Rempel wants people to know about the vital role the Artesian plays in Regina’s arts community.

“Our focus is on supporting local and emerging artists from Regina, Saskatchewan, and beyond, by trying to connect audiences to those who are pursuing artistic work,” Rempel says. “I think when people think of the Artesian, they assume it’s a wedding and concert venue, but a big part of what we try to do is supporting artists of all levels. The vast majority of rentals that use the space are either non-profit or community groups, and we invest as much as we can back into supporting emerging art and cultural programming.”

Rempel has been with the Artesian for a year, and as a member of local indie rock band Bears in Hazenmore, he brings a passion for the arts. Beyond music, the Artesian also plays host to a wide variety of programming, including spoken word, storytelling, theatre, dance and cultural events. Since its inception in 2011, it has existed in various forms to fulfill its mission of being a champion for artists, and a centre for engagement with the arts community.

“The Artesian first opened in 2011, and until 2016, it ran as a private for-profit venue, doing lots of shows in the community. Over time, some of the partners grew tired of running the daily operations, and at that point, the future of the Artesian seemed fairly uncertain. It looked like the building might be sold or levelled and made into a parking lot. There wasn’t much driving force to keep it open as a venue,” Rempel says.

Luckily, thanks to the venue’s manager at the time, Andrew Manera, the Artesian was rebuilt as a non-profit organization. Manera established a board of directors, and ran the venue part-time for two years, along with part-time bar manager, Mel Vovchuk.

“In 2018, they decided it was time for a change, so they rolled the two positions into one. That brings us to today, where I’m the sole employee.” Rempel adds. “We operate with very little government funding. We’ve been lucky to receive the support of the City of Regina and Farm Credit Canada’s Regina Spirit Fund, but we receive no operational funding to do what we do.”

On May 3, the Artesian had its most recent fundraising initiative, the I Heart Artesian event, which was an opportunity for the community to support the venue through ticket sales and donations. The program for the evening included a variety of local arts and cultural performances, including Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Megan Nash, former Saskatchewan poet laureate Gerald Hill, and local improvisors Hitchhikers Improv Company.

For Rempel, the Artesian represents a unique and powerful opportunity for the Regina community, and he hopes to see it grow and gain traction in the coming years.

“We have awesome things like independent theatre productions that tackle issues like race and identity. These are deep issues that are important to the community in a day-to-day fashion,” he explains. “Venues are important because they are the places that we tell our stories as a community. It’s not just entertainment, and in many ways, it’s catharsis and identity building, and there’s so much that goes on here. I love when people support it and I hope they continue to.”

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Dana Rempel, photo by Hanna Hudson-Plante