The 39th annual James Weir Peoples Choice exhibition came to a close last night with the announcement of the artists whose works received the most votes from the public.

Malia Brackpool was awarded first place, for her piece entitled, "My Babies".

While this was her first time entering the show, interestingly, Brackpool's business partner for CollabArtive Studios, Krystal Glowatski, took third place, with an untitled painting.

"It's kind of funny, because we were told that we were nominated, but we weren't sure what place or anything," she noted. "It's coming up to our one year [anniversary of business], and it just feels so exciting that things are falling into place all the time. And I feel like this is a validation for both of us, that we know where we need to be, where we're supposed to be."

Brackpool said she has always loved painting animals, and this piece is inspired by her three children but created specifically for the JWPC.

"I feel like lots of times, even opening an art studio, we do a lot more work than we want to, so just making that time to do something fun, like painting, I love painting so I would definitely do it again."

Second place went to Sheila Roncin, who made the Peter Rabbit needle felting piece of Peter in his garden. 

"I've only been doing it for about a year and a half, so I'm really new at it. But I started with making things for my grandson and little farm animals and dinosaurs and that kind of thing," she shared.

She said she got intrigued by felting on Pinterest, then took to Facebook groups to learn the technique, "Just by the questions and answers and explanations."

"When I first made [Peter Rabbit], I was not real happy with him, and he was just as he was for a long time, and then beginning of December, he had a nose job and a chin implant and I switched up his garden a little bit."

She added felted wool is a very forgiving medium.

City Curator Regan Lanning said 23 artists from Weyburn and surrounding communities entered the exhibition.

"1,136 ballots were cast in gallery, and an additional 319 ballots were spoiled and therefore were not counted. Ballots can be spoiled by not voting for three different pieces, or by not signing your name, we also had one instance of one person voting over 30 times and signing their name each time. Sadly, none of their ballots were counted, but. Alexa, we're on to you."

"We also had 266 votes cast via our online voting residents of 16 different countries clicked our link to vote."

"With this being the 39th year that we've held the James Weir People's Choice Awards, do you know who James Weir was? James Weir was the founder of the Weyburn Arts Council," shared Lanning. "Next year, 2024 marks our 50th anniversary as an Arts Council legend has it that James went to City Hall and presented his idea of forming an Arts Council and thus the Weyburn Arts Council was formed, making it the very first Arts Council in Saskatchewan. 10 years later, the Weyburn Arts Council establish ed the James Weir People's Choice, naming it after him."

"After serving as the Chair of the Weyburn Arts Council for several years, Jim, as he was known to his friends, went on to be the Saskatchewan Arts board, now known as SaskArts, Chair. Sask Arts are one of the Weyburn Arts Council's primary funders, and they are celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. So congratulations to them from us in the Weyburn Gallery and the Weyburn Arts Council."

"I would like to thank our sponsors, the wonderful people, that Speedy Auto Glass have once again provided the individual awards going to our first, second, and third place winners, staff parks, SASK Culture, SASK Lotteries, and the City of Weyburn. Thank you for your funding and for your continued support. And a special shout-out to the Weyburn Arts Council for their many hours of volunteering and coordinating local art events."

She also thanked the Lunch Box, located just outside the gallery doors, for providing the delicious cookies for the event.

Lanning added she gave 24 classroom tours of the exhibition.

A map was up representing the other areas from where votes were made, including Canada, United States, Mexico, Australia, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Taiwan, Denver, Greece, India, Tobago, and China.