After being closed over the weekend due to an outcry from some members of the public about the works contained within the '8 Rooms' exhibition at the Weyburn Art Gallery, the gallery was reopened on Tuesday. It now includes parental advisory signage, and Weyburn City Councillor Ryan Janke was able to clear up concerns about censorship of the art.

"The most important thing to note right now is that the gallery is open and the signs are up in place, making sure that everyone knows that maybe parental discretion is advised," he said. "Kids under 14 have never really been allowed into the gallery unassisted. That's always been the rule, and now the signage is just out there to make sure everyone's aware of that."

Janke said he encourages everyone to visit the gallery to have a look for themselves at the exhibit.

"We should all be very proud of our art gallery," he noted. "This exhibit, while it has stirred up some opinions on both sides, is interesting, to say the least, and I think it's a testament to how well put together our gallery is, and that we got some feedback and we got some opinions on this, whereas other communities have not."

He said this means our gallery is attracting people.

"Our gallery has foot traffic, ours is more successful than some of the other communities have been." 

With the Weyburn Art Gallery being located within the Weyburn Credit Union Spark Centre, and adjacent to Legacy Park Elementary School, Janke pointed out that it is in a high-traffic area. 

"It is attached to an elementary school, and that's why the signage is out there to make sure that people are aware of that," he shared. "This school has been aware of what's going on at the gallery since the very beginning, since the very first exhibits. So I don't think that there's really a concern about school kids going out there and not knowing what they're walking into, because the principals and the teachers are aware of it." 

"I can't say this enough. Everyone should go down and check this out," he implored. "Whether you like it, whether you hate it, either way, it is worth 10 minutes of your time to go take a quick look, watch the video, and just see what everyone's talking about."

Feedback had also been sent to the City from members of the public who were concerned about the exhibit being closed for good.

"I don't think it was ever in danger of being taken down. There were concerns about whether or not the 14 year old guideline was being enforced, and there were concerns about whether or not the signage was appropriate, and there were some strong feelings that that needed to be addressed before anything else happened," Janke explained. "But as far as taking it down or implying any kind of censorship, I don't think that was ever a discussion on the table."

He said, to be fair, it all happened very quickly, and perhaps, "much more urgently than maybe it needed to. Probably this could have waited until Council meeting on Monday night, but there were strong opinions on both sides and all of them were demanding quick action."

Janke said it could be worth looking at holding a special meeting for something like this in the future, before going forward with closures, which gave many the idea that the exhibit would not be reopened.

"Art is communication," he noted. "It's supposed to start a conversation, and a conversation needs to have a little bit of conflict. So I'm actually very excited that we have this kind of engagement with this now. And I know I've already said this, but I would encourage people on either side of this debate to go down and take a look at it. Don't worry about the pictures that are floating around, see it with your own eyes and then share what you think. If you love it, tell everybody you love it. If you hate it, tell everybody you hate it. That's how the conversation gets started. I'm no artist, but to my mind, that's what art's all about."

Janke shared that what the Weyburn Art Gallery display is within the purview of Weyburn Arts Council and the City Curator. 

"Regan [Lanning] has done a fantastic job keeping that gallery going. Our art gallery is actually after some awards, and that's largely due to her hard work. The entire plan behind this art gallery was to be comparable to the big ones in Regina and Saskatoon, so we could attract the high end exhibits." 

"I think the City wanted to handle this quickly and delicately, but certainly not with any eye towards censorship."

Again, Janke encouraged everyone go down and see the '8 Rooms' exhibit, which is on display until June 26th, using parental guidance for those taking their kids along for the free trip to the gallery. 

"Art is outside my area of expertise, but I do consider myself something of a movie aficionado, and we certainly do that in the movie industry as well, there's always a rating telling you what to expect and giving you some loose guidelines. So I mean, if this were a movie, PG-13 would be more than enough rating for it for sure. So I think we mostly have that in line." 

Local artist Chris Borshowa, who is an active member of Weyburn's art community, said he is glad to see the exhibition open once again.

"The purpose of art is to make people feel - good, bad, or indifferent. It exists for people to have conversations with others and with themselves, and this is a vital piece to our society and culture as humans," he commented. "This exhibit in general has toured all over the world, and across Canada with no issues thus far. Why now? Because some individuals decided they did not like the display? This is the point of art."

"As for protecting our children from such themes, I personally think it’s important to teach our children about the world, the good, the bad, the ugly, the in-between, and about life, about mental health, about sexuality, and about personal expression through all those things. Let them ask questions, let them inquire," Borschowa noted.

He added a note for parents who may be concerned about their kids seeing '8 Rooms', "Nothing about this exhibit is explicit, and its contents and themes are not new to Weyburn art, and the artists who have exhibited here before."