In Memoriam

Remembering Laird Rankin 

The Winnipeg Arts Council was devastated to learn about Laird Rankin’s sudden passing on June 19. Laird joined the WAC Board in 2006 and his special and deep connection to the Winnipeg Arts Council prompted the organization to bestow upon him the title of Chair Emeritus in May 2016.

Laird made many visits to City Hall to address Standing Committee and the Executive Policy Committee on both budget and the corporate plan, and to meet with individual Councillors on behalf of the Winnipeg Arts Council. He spoke on behalf of the organization at countless public art openings and other events, as well as presenting the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award annually at the Manitoba Book Awards for as long as anyone has been keeping track. 

Between 2006 and 2017, Laird missed a total of three Board meetings. He sent regrets once in 2007 and once in 2008, and then his attendance record was perfect until February 2016 when his family sent him to New York for his birthday so he could attend the Metropolitan Opera.

The staff and Board felt an uncommon affinity and bond with him. Laird was a staunch defender of the arts in all its forms. His easy banter and shrewd observations showed his genuine interest and support of the Winnipeg arts community. When Laird would inevitably arrive early for a Board meeting or public art opening, the staff were thrilled because it meant that we each could have a moment with him to exchange thoughts on recent arts events, local news or travels (both his and ours). Laird was smart, witty and accomplished in so many areas and we are deeply grateful for his time with us. His eloquent words, grace, and sense of humour will be remembered. We miss him already. We extend our deepest sympathies to his sons, Matthew and Scott, and his family.

Remembering Andrew Wilhelm-Boyles

The Winnipeg Arts Council is deeply saddened by the passing of Andrew Wilhelm-Boyles and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family. Andrew was Director of the Winnipeg Arts Council between 2002 and 2005, a pivotal time of change for the organization when it moved from an advisory committee to a fully incorporated arts agency. His leadership was critical to the formation of the Winnipeg Arts Council Inc. in 2002 and to the development of the Public Art Policy. Andrew established a municipal funding model for the arts that is still current. With his many accomplishments and adventures in the arts in Canada and internationally we were honoured that Winnipeg was one of Andrew's chosen cities. He will be greatly missed.

Remembering Kathleen Richardson

The Winnipeg Arts Council is so sorry to hear of Kathleen Richardson’s passing. When the Winnipeg Arts Council first started giving out awards in 2007, Miss Richardson was our inaugural Arts Champion. Ever the quiet philanthropist, she refused to comment on her gifts and eschewed most forms of public recognition. When she allowed her name to stand for the Arts Champion Award, Miss Richardson did so not for personal recognition, but to serve as an example for others. We felt privileged that she often joined us at the Mayor’s Luncheon for the Arts to celebrate the talent and skill of Winnipeg’s arts community. Winnipeg's vibrant artistic landscape can be attributed in large part to her involvement with all the cultural organizations that this city has come to cherish.

It is not an overstatement to say that several organizations would not be the same if it had not been for Kathleen Richardson’s remarkable impact. Her recorded and significant involvement in support of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre dates back to 1957 when she purchased what was then known as the Dominion Theatre. She encouraged the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to take risks with new ballet repertoire, thus allowing choreographers and dancers the opportunity to create new art. Her life-long love of orchestral music was well-known, and she had been a long-standing supporter of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for more than four decades. It was her suggestion that James Richardson & Sons Limited celebrate its 150 years in business by making an unprecedented gift of $1 million dollars to the WSO, RWB, Royal MTC and Manitoba Opera. This included the lead gift of $250,000 for the development of Manitoba Opera’s original opera, Transit of Venus.

Carol Phillips, Executive Director, Winnipeg Arts Council:  All during my tenure (1985-1992) as director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Miss Richardson was a member of the Winnipeg Art Gallery Board. The most considerate and generous of donors, she always sought advice as to where the greatest need might be. From essentially establishing the Arts and Crafts dimension of the Decorative Arts Collection (an area she personally loved) to supporting major contemporary purchases, along with annual operating gifts, Miss Richardson was the personification of the “Arts Champion.” How extraordinary to be able to work with her side by side. I will treasure her memory always.

Our condolences to Kathleen Richardson’s family. We hope you are comforted by the outpouring of love and appreciation for her. She will always be remembered for her kindness and generosity and the respectful way she championed artists.

Remembering Andris Taskans

The Winnipeg Arts Council was saddened to hear of the passing of Andris Taskans. Andris is best known as the co-founder and editor of Prairie Fire magazine, and for his work in turning it into one of Canada’s preeminent journals of creative writing. His work in Winnipeg’s literary community runs deep, not only with Prairie Fire but as the first Artistic Director of the Winnipeg International Writers Festival, and his contributions to the early days of the Manitoba Writers Guild and the Manitoba Magazine Publishers Association.

In recognition of his work to elevate the literary arts in our community and beyond, Andris was the winner of the Winnipeg Arts Council’s 2009 Making A Difference Award. His contributions have allowed Canadians to discover countless Winnipeg writers, and he was a mentor and advisor for many more.

Always an advocate for the arts, Andris will be missed. Winnipeg Poet Laureate Di Brandt offered these words of tribute:
 

We have lost a bright literary light of Winnipeg, of Canada, of the world. Andris was a generous, courageous, perceptive, elegant, devoted servant to professional literary writing in our country. Besides creating a high calibre literary magazine and inspiring others to join him in sustaining that calibre for nearly half a century, Andris was always alert to new creative opportunities for supporting writers and new writing, and had a large hand in the creation of the Manitoba Writers Guild, the THIN AIR Winnipeg International Writers Festival, and many other programs and events.

It's hard for us to remember, now, how little infrastructure there was for writers in our province and city forty years ago. No one served the transition to our currently robust and flourishing literary culture more graciously and steadfastly than Andris, and we have much to thank him for. He always had his eye out for the new hot literary thing, and kept us on the edge of exciting innovation, while at the same time holding a large space for the established writers among us, always highlighting their achievements with elegant appreciation and grace.

Andris, you will be greatly, deeply, richly missed. Here's to you, who inspired and led us, and fed us, for so long.