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Donation brings rodeo culture to the University of Regina community

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: July 19, 2022 8:00 a.m.

Blake Little, “Rory Sapergia, Hall Ranch, 2012”
Blake Little, “Rory Sapergia, Hall Ranch, 2012” Credit: Blake Little and Wayne Baerwaldt

The University of Regina community will have the chance to immerse themselves in rodeo culture thanks to alumnus Wayne Baerwaldt (BA’78), who donated to the Dr. John Archer Library his collection of photographic work taken by artists Sheila Spence and Blake Little at various events throughout North America.

A cowboy posing for the camera
“Austin Nash, Arrowwood Rodeo, 2012”
Credit: Blake Little and Wayne Baerwaldt

“I wanted to try to stimulate an interest in photography that, for the most part, is very experiential. It’s about trying to donate works that are significant for viewers in this region and beyond that make you think about the medium in which they are produced and makes you think about where the work is produced,” Baerwaldt said. 

A cowboy posing in front of a barn
“John Cross, Cross Ranch, 2012”
Credit: Blake Little and Wayne Baerwaldt

Baerwaldt noted that rodeo culture has been well documented by photographers such as Richard Avedon who produced a remarkable body of work over a five-year period from the Texas-Mexico border all the way up to the Calgary Stampede. But Saskatchewan, too, has its impressive history of rodeo photography – most notably at the Wood Mountain Stampede, which has been running since 1890, making it Canada’s oldest continuous rodeo. Baerwaldt intended to share an impression of Wood Mountain history by working closely with Little and Spence to capture the Indigenous and settler participants who have collectively produced the event from 2009 to 2015. Some of the portraits produced at Wood Mountain are included in the donated collection.

Cowboy posing for a camera
“Classy Fatback, Arrowwood Rodeo, 2012"
Credit: Blake Little and Wayne Baerwaldt

“The pieces have everything to do with the people in this region, and I was really intrigued by the way Little and Spence tried to capture something special about them at the Wood Mountain Rodeo,” Baerwaldt said. “Each of the subjects was really generous and responsive to what the photographers wanted to record of their attire, their look, and their demeanour. There’s a certain confidence exhibited by the subjects; it spoke to their openness to believe that a significant portrait in a specific time and place is going to be made of them.”

Family of cowboys and cowgirls

“The Stevenson Family, Nanton, Alberta, 2012”
Credit: Blake Little and Wayne Baerwaldt

You can see a selection of the art works, which are valued at approximately $125,000, displayed on the 6th floor of the Archer Library in the elevator lobby.

“We’re thrilled to be the recipients of this generous gift from Wayne of his collection of work by Blake Little and Sheila Spence,” said Alex King, Curator/Preparator, President’s Advisory Committee on Art at the U of R. “Their use of portraiture gives the viewer rich insight into members of the rodeo community, through each artist's singular perspective. I love seeing how people choose to present themselves to the camera - the way they style themselves, their expressions, and their body language - all these things tell us a little bit about what matters to these subjects and how they relate to the community.”

Cowboy posing for the camera

“Travis Mcguire, Arrowwood Rodeo, 2012”
Credit: Blake Little and Wayne Baerwaldt

“With the photographic work of Little and Spence and the visual links to rodeos and Wood Mountain, I’m hoping urban people in particular will be recognize themselves in rodeo culture and feel more comfortable to engage with rural culture in general and actually meet some of the portrait subjects,” Baerwaldt said. 

Cowboy posing for camera

“Scott Waye, Arrowwood Rodeo, 2012”
Credit: Blake Little and Wayne Baerwaldt