In the winter of 2023, the community of Weyburn was graced with the presence of 17 gnomes, each with its own name, style and personality. They were created by members of the Weyburn Arts Council, but they've taken on lives of their own.
The gnomes were introduced on Facebook, with a group solely dedicated to 'gnome-hunting'. Anyone who found one would find, on the base of the gnome, instructions to help share on that gnome's journey. The group made a way for the community to bond over something different.
“It was such a fun program,” said Regan Lanning, Curator with the Weyburn Art Gallery. “We just had an idea one day, and ran with it, and it really just took on a life of its own.”
“We kind of thought that it would be kids out there, but no, we had full grown adults and middle-aged men out there hunting gnomes, which was just wonderful to enjoy,” she noted.
Of the 17 gnomes, some were moved and hidden often, while others only made one stop and then disappeared.
“We, of course, named them all,” told Lanning. “We wanted them to kind of be like Pokémon, where you want to collect them all.”
“Not a single one has been returned.”
For this reason, an incentive has been offered to anyone who would like to return a gnome to the Spark Centre.
“We have an exchange program going on, if you bring in a gnome you get a free kids pass to either the Spark Centre or the [Weyburn Leisure Centre],” she explained.
Lanning said they fully knew, give how cute the gnomes are, “that people maybe would get attached to them and decide that instead of, you know, continuing to allow that gnome to roam, maybe it just needed to live on their fireplace mantle or something.”
“They are cute and they they are fun. So we knew that that was a possibility, which is why we decided to offer that incentive.”
“We would love to have them come back. However, those gnomes are going to be retired. They're not going to be returning to the streets of Weyburn next fall. We'll be making new creations to hide and seek around Weyburn.”
She said there are talks of creating the gnomes with Southeast Newcomer Services, and when introducing a gnome, they'd also introduce one of our community's newcomers as well.
For whichever gnomes that haven't found a cozy nook in a local home, they may become part of the landscape of our community in their own right. Many gnomes were seen having been damaged.
“They were never returned for us to repair though, so I think maybe they just were disposed of, because they are made of clay. So if you do drop them on the sidewalk, there's going to be damage,” Lanning explained. “So I think Rhonda in particular met her demise, and I know that Bleu the bird that lived on Frances's hat, vanished at some point. I think he was knocked off. And Aagosh had his facial hair changed also due to some damage.”
Nonetheless, when it comes to the sheer pleasure of all the gnomes' journeys, they served their true purpose.
“I don't want to speak for everyone else's mental health, but my mental health really takes a beating in February,” Lanning intimated. “It feels like winter is perpetual, that it's never going to end, and then we get into March with the weather that really can't make up its mind. So we thought we would create these gnomes, they're bright, they're cheerful, they would get people out of their houses, kind of create a sense of community during a time when our residents are very insular.”
Read about the gnomes and follow some of their adventures HERE.