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Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus

Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus is a 55-acre boreal forest summer research retreat and art campus of the University of Saskatchewan. It is situated on Murray Point at the northern edge of Okema Beach on Emma Lake. Since it was founded in 1936 by Augustus Kenderdine, then head of the University of Saskatchewan Department of Art, with the support of then-president of the university, Walter Murray, the campus has been developed as an art school. Despite initial economic difficulty the original site, named the Murray Point Art School, flourished. Over the years, well-known Canadian and international artists associated with the school (1936–73) and the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops (1955 to present) have enabled the site to achieve national and international renown. Since the mid-1960s, under the auspices of the University of Saskatchewan Department of Biology, the site has also been a provincial research area for biologists and other researchers interested in botany, zoology, limnology, and the environment in general. The campus and the associated Fairy Island biology station provide the requirements for field courses in natural history because the geographical area offers a variety of ecological habitats, along with living and working facilities. It is the most northerly field station in Saskatchewan, and one of the few sites in Canada that specifically examine the boreal forest. The site was declared a game preserve in 1962.

In the early 1980s the campus also became a venue for the men’s team artistic gymnastics program sponsored by the University of Saskatchewan College of Physical Education, and for boys and girls gymnastics clubs. Over the years the artists, biologists and gymnasts have collaborated on programming. The Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus has also been the site of a variety of community arts programs for the Extension Division of the University of Saskatchewan. Since the early 1990s, these program offerings have expanded in number and duration, and provide an extensive slate of offerings on an annual basis. Over the years, the site has also been available to a variety of other university departments and various user groups for such programs as Leadership Training, Life-Skills Coach Training, the Emma Lake Fiddle Camps of the Saskatchewan Cultural Exchange Society, the Saskatchewan Craft Council Woodworkers’ Biennial Conference, Siast art workshops, and the Writers and Artists Colony of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. The facilities themselves form part of the site’s heritage too—especially Kenderdine 9 (the founder’s first studio-cabin) and Cabin 4 (his homestead). These buildings reflect the stages of the site’s development, and the visions of its various users.

During the 1970s the University of Saskatchewan entered into an agreement with the Prince Albert Regional Community College (PARCC), whereupon PARCC operated what was then the Emma Lake Art Camp through a partnership with the university. In 1988, PARCC amalgamated with the Northern Institute of Technology to form the Woodland Campus of SIAST. Part of the amalgamation agreement stipulated that Woodlands continue all programs of both institutions. In 1989, the University of Saskatchewan and Woodlands signed a ten-year agreement by which Woodlands was responsible for the management and operation of the newly named “Kenderdine Campus at Emma Lake.” In 1995, the Kenderdine Campus board of directors undertook a study of the operation and potential uses of the Kenderdine Campus at Emma Lake; the final document recommended actions designed to position the Kenderdine Campus to play a sustainable role in the future. On November 30, 1998, the partnership between the University and SIAST was completed, and the University of Saskatchewan took sole responsibility for site management and renewal.

Kate Hobin

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