Vision and Resolve Makes Success for Yvette Moore
One of a series commissioned by the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance
By Steven Ross Smith
It has been a long, sometimes bumpy way for Yvette Moore, from laying her first brushstrokes on canvas in 1972, to buying and renovating a large historic building that would house her own gallery in 2000. But she has made this journey.
When she started painting, she admired Norman Rockwell, his realist ability and penchant for story in his paintings. But Moore could find no one in her milieu painting like him, and so lack of stylistic peers dampened her motivation.
In 1978, Moore – who'd grown up in Radville – went to the School of the Arts in Fort Qu'Appelle, but instructors there were into modern art. So she took an Art History 100 course to try to understand the moderns, but this mode was not in her veins.
She felt alone with her realist, romantic, stylistic leanings. “But I was stubborn,” she says. And so she simply went ahead on her own.
One of her early exhibitions was at the Allie Griffin Gallery in Weyburn in the '80s. Several years later this led to a connection that would catapult her onto a new plateau.
Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet, a novice writer in Weyburn who had seen Yvette's work at the Griffin Gallery called, in 1990, to see if Moore would be interested in creating art for a new alphabet book, one set in the prairies, and one with an interested publisher, Tundra books, already on board. Yvette leapt at the chance.
She and Jo had a meeting of minds, and between them, guided by the publisher, they created the now infamous, A Prairie Alphabet, with Jo's text and Yvette's artwork. That book has gone on to sell over three hundred thousand copies world-wide.
In 1992, Yvette's detailed, narrative prairie scenes won the Mr. Christie Best Children's Book Illustration Award. The market boomed for Moore's original paintings and the print copies of these illustrations. Affirmation and reward had arrived, as did subsequent collaborations with Bannatyne-Cugnet. The most recent of these is Heartland-A Prairie Sampler, just released by McClelland & Stewart Publishers. Moore and Bannatyne-Cugnet call this book a “brag book of the prairies.”
As if two-dimensional space were not enough to deal with, Moore had developed an interest in historical buildings. By 1996 she was the proprietor of the Cranberry Rose teahouse and gallery in a vintage house in Moose Jaw. She believes that renovating historic buildings is “another form of art.” In 1998 she purchased Moose Jaw's Land Titles Building built in 1910, with a view to restoring it to house a gallery featuring her art, others' arts and crafts, and a tea house.
Yvette, standing in her newly-purchased, neglected, empty building, did have an “oh-my- God-what-have-I-done” moment, but typically, she rose to the challenge. There followed three months of hard work by trades-persons, friends and family, and of course Moore.
She had received an heritage grant to complete the outside of the building, but she financed the rest herself, in keeping with her independent streak. She says, “I'm not a person who wants to answer to others.” With elbow grease, three thousand pounds of plaster, and other materials, the building was restored and renewed to magnificent splendour. “To me the building is now priceless,” she says. You can browse her building and her paintings in the internet at www.YvetteMoore.com.
Moore's incessant and generous energy moves beyond her personal projects, to the community at large. She sits on the boards of Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan, of Tourism Moose Jaw, of the Moose Jaw Chamber of Commerce, and the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee to Council. And she hosted the opening reception of the Western Premieres Conference in May 2001.
It could be said that Moore herself is a growth industry. She has stimulated her community – aesthetically, culturally and economically – in all that she's done.
She is not alone. She is part of the growing arts and cultural industries, a force that now engages over three-quarters of a million people in Canada, and contributes almost twenty-two billion dollars to the economy.
A little known fact is that arts and culture contributes almost twice as much to the Gross Domestic Product as the Canadian banking system. This is achieved through the efforts, great and small, of each individual artist and cultural worker this industrious sector.
Moore has just hit another jackpot. Moose Jaw's Temple Gardens Hotel and Spa have chosen over 350 pieces of her artwork to hang in and around the 80 rooms of their new expansion.
One wonders how Moore has time to paint, but she does. She's a confessed “burst and deadline painter,” and this way of focusing her energy has enabled her to paint more than seven hundred paintings. Many of these will walk out the door of her gallery, under the arms of some of the two hundred to five hundred daily visitors. Other paintings will appear in future books.
Wherever her audience finds her work, they will carry off a bit of her boundless energy, and a small chunk of Saskatchewan as seen through Yvette Moore's distinctive artistic and entrepreneurial eyes.
Steven Ross Smith is a poet, fiction writer, reviewer living in Saskatoon.
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