Sunday, September 3 heralded the final summer performance event at the Little Manitou Art Gallery with a bittersweet farewell to owners Sarah McKen and Clayton Cave. The pair has sold the Gallery which has been home to a unique and eclectic music performance and gallery space over the last decade plus.  

The Manitou Music Fest has been a feature of the Labour Day weekend for years, and the multi-talented musicians, dancers and performers gathered on a warm September evening for a perfect summer send off. 

The evening opened with Brian Paul DG and Bruce Rawling teaming up to perform their original songs. The singer songwriters are regular fixtures at Manitou Beach, and they joined forces to draw in the audience to a warm musical embrace. Songs like Brian Paul’s “Sing Me Something” and Bruce’s powerful “Need” were welcome reminders that great folk music and song discoveries are always out there. 

Flamenco Borealis brought a vibrant taste of music and dance from Spain. The duo is part of an ensemble that will be mounting a Saskatchewan tour in April and May. Also in the Latin vein was the masterful vocal and guitar work of Two Amigos. The pairing of Scott Triffo and Felipe Guerra launched into a string of Latin influenced songs and rhythms, driven by Guerra’s infectious vocals and audience rapport, and Triffo’s manic guitar work.  

Also on hand were Chris Vasseur and his band, along with a suitcase full of original tunes. Salty Circus lit up the Beach night with their fire inspired dance and hula routines. Sound man extraordinaire Emilio del Canto went into DJ mode to help the packed crowd dance the rest of the night away.  

At the opening of the evening. Sarah McKen recounted the evolution of the Little Manitou Art Gallery. McKen and carver and artist Cave moved to the Beach a dozen years ago with the idea of establishing a personal retreat for their own art. The original Gallery building, a small bin shaped structure adjacent to the house, was the first home of their artwork.  

“We couldn’t keep up, so we told three friends,” recounts McKen, “And they told a few people, and their friends told a few people, and it grew by the next year to twelve different friends. From there it’s grown to the point where I have 367 different visual artists with work that is displayed in the galleries.” 

Some of those are fledgling artists stepping out of their studios for the first time, while others are well-recognized and established. The yard has changed over the years to accommodate different display buildings, a lively performance stage, an outdoor café serving some of the region’s best locally grown food, and all with the hospitality that the couple and their staff have come to be known for. It’s an integral part of the community known as a place of physical and spiritual healing.  

“We have felt nothing but support from friends and neighbours coming to join us from Manitou Beach and Watrous,” McKen said in conversation. “It’s been an amazing opportunity for us to find our way. So many different artists from across Saskatchewan have joined us and locals have joined us. We are truly honoured for what we’ve experienced in the last dozen years.” 

It’s been a home for visual artists and art lovers and a haven for musical performers, veterans and emerging artists, to find a welcome and unique performance space.  

The hope is that new owners, One Wellness Network, will continue the traditions that locals and visitors have come to enjoy, with their own spin.