Saanich honours winners of inaugural arts and culture awards

Margaret Bachman, St. Luke's Players, Mike Geric Construction and Sheila Blake recognized for contributions to the arts

Coun. Vicki Sanders and Jenny Waelti-Walters

District of Saanich councillors, directors and staff held a private tea and reception before publicly recognizing the inaugural winners of the Saanich Arts, Culture and Heritage Awards on Dec. 5.

Margaret Bachman (Unsung Hero) and members of the St. Luke’s Players (Cultural Stewardship) were at council while the other two winners, Mike Geric Construction (The Art of Business) and Sheila Blake (Individual Lifetime Achievement) were absent due to illness.

Each are given an original print, framed in glass, by artist Jenny Waelti-Walters.

The awards were created by the Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee, chaired by Coun. Vicki Sanders.

Bachman was given the Unsung Hero award for kickstarting Saanich’s Music in the Park series 10 years ago, though it’s been three years since she was last on the organizing end of it.

“I’m very humbled by this award. I share it with my entire committee, they were stellar,” Bachman said.

The series mirrored a similar program in Brentwood Bay. Bachman wanted to start it in Saanich, and with a team of go-getters, they turned it from a three-series event at Rutledge Park into a much larger summer affair at several Saanich neighbourhood parks throughout the summer. Music in the Park is now funded by the Saanich Legacy Foundation, and includes food vendors, local crafters and artisans at the events.

“We had a vision for it, myself and a few friends,” Bachman said. “We didn’t have music-promoting experience, we just said, let’s get off the couch and do it, and we made it happen.”

At first, she thought she’d fund it herself, but as the vision grew, it was clear the community would have to chip in. Among the key supporters was Jim Bates of Lumberworld, who provided the materials to build the stage. Locals Ron and Betty Otke are also key as they matched donations to help Music in the Park grow.

“It was the business community who made it a reality. I went to many businesses and asked them for help and they wrote cheques, they funded a dream,” Bachman said.

The awards also honoured the St. Luke’s Players theatre group, which are now in their 68th season, with the Cultural Stewardship Organization award. St. Luke’s has run a successful theatre operation out of St. Luke’s Cedar Hill Anglican Church, ‘promoting and nurturing the arts’ with grassroots theatrical productions.

Jane Guy is the vice-president of the St. Luke’s Players board, and accepted the award on behalf of the group.

Total membership for St. Luke’s is about 180 people with an active group of about 30 each show.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t want to be on stage but they love being part of the organization. They’ll help as stage managers, with props, sets, lighting, sound, or selling coffee, tea or tickets at the front of house,” Guy said.

For the use of the St. Luke’s facility, the theatre group shares 80 per cent of profits.

“It’s a very good relationship, it gives us a home, and we’ll hang this award in the church.”

Saanich’s Mike Geric Construction won the Art of Business for its work supporting arts and culture through the decades. Current head of the company Ed Geric was ill and did not make it to the reception.

Among the developer’s many achievements are its work with the Saanich Heritage Foundation, and its work to prepare a Heritage Revitalization Agreement for the Royal Oak Schoolhouse which was built in 1885.

The Lifetime Achievement award was given to Sheila Blake, who’s lived in Saanich since the 1970s. For 50 years she’s taught, mentored and organized art and cultural activities that showcased the talents of countless Saanich residents, Sanders said. Blake brought dance into Saanich schools and organized dance and music events throughout the Greater Victoria region that are still being offered today.

The Next Gen youth award was not awarded, as there weren’t any nominations. Sanders said the Arts, Culture and Heritage Awards will be awarded at least once a council term but will not be an annual event.

 

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