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Multitalented maker

Laura Hosaluk is an alchemist, turning everything she touches into art

artist Laura Hosaluk

Laura Hosaluk recalls wanting to be an artist at a very young age – something that came to her naturally. Her father, after all, is Michael Hosaluk, an internationally recognized wood turner.

Michael is also one the founding members of the Emma International Collaboration, a biennial event in which 100 artists from across the globe come to Saskatchewan’s boreal forest to create. These assemblies started in 1982: Laura came into the world in 1983. “I was really born into this global community of people who gathered, shared information and … worked with their hands,” says Laura, who has been a full-time artist for seven years.

Eclectic compositions

Emma collaborators create in almost every visual medium imaginable, including wood turning, glass etching, metal casting, beadwork and painting, so young Laura had the chance to experiment with all of them and watch masters at their craft. “That’s where I developed the versatility to work with a broad range of media,” she says. Today, Laura’s compositions are eclectic — acrylic paintings, furniture, sculpture – with each series looking as though it could have been produced by someone different. One of her works, Mom, is comprised of a porcelain doll’s naked white head and lower arms. Wooden upper arms, thighs and feet attach to the body with springs. A prominent resin heart beats in an even more prominent square chest. The overall impact is both warm and eerie.

Rise Up, by Laura Hosaluk
Laura uses realistic moulds for her doll sculpture series, like the bronze Rise Up

Despite her youth, Laura has already made her mark. Slate Fine Arts Gallery, in Regina, Saskatchewan, represents her and her work has been featured in Spain and England. The early Emma experience gave her confidence unusual for a young artist and she credits this education with much of what she’s accomplished so far. “I was exposed to this peer group of professional artists [who valued] my ideas,” she says. “That collaborative process really validated [me].”

Laura has a broad, lightly freckled face, eyes the colour of pale blue winter ice and an engaging smile framed by a cascade of brown hair. Perhaps because of her own exposure to artists as a child, she’s passionate about bringing out the talents in children. She spent several years working with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Saskatoon, where much of the programming she designed was arts-based. “Kids have always been a really good centering device for me, a gauge to determine … how authentic I am in my teaching and in my practice because of their ability to tune in,” she says. She credits one of her charges, who called her a “real artist,” with her decision to leave her day job. “Kids don’t lie,” she says. “They call it like it is. That’s when I made up my mind to start pursuing my art full time.”

“I was exposed to this peer group of professional artists [who valued] my ideas. That collaborative process really validated [me]”

—Laura Hosaluk

Inspiring children

A career in the arts is always a challenge, though. “You have to be very creative,” she says of making a living with her skills. So she takes on commissions and looks for temporary contracts with clients like the Saskatoon Children’s Discovery Museum and the Children’s Festival of Saskatchewan, where she started working with Shauna Bradford-Wilson in 2009.

As then-artistic director and executive producer of the festival, Shauna launched a multi-year project called The Peace Tree Garden, in which children made ornaments symbolizing peace to hang on wooden trees. Along with other artists, Laura helped plan and facilitate several art-making experiences for children and families at the site, including an interactive soundscape project, a linocut print project and a nest-making project.

“Laura is incredibly creative, positive and resourceful,” says Shauna. “The Children’s Festival has a legacy of community building and shared creative participation at a higher artistic level than a typical kiddie fair. Laura always understood that distinction. She protected that artistic imperative and believes that children have the inherent ability to recognize and value deeper artistic meaning.”

Online mentorship

One of Laura’s goals is to devise a self-directed online learning arts platform for children and adults that encourages them to mentor one another. She wants to take what she learned from her early experiences and create a new way to exchange ideas. To reach this goal, she knows she’ll need more skills than just her art making and she’s already working to sharpen other capabilities: Laura spends about half her time creating and the other half in arts administration. “I’m building off my art to pioneer future sustainability in the arts through education and community,” she says.

One way she has built her skills is as a board member with Saskatoon’s New Community Credit Union (2,295 members, $117.5 million in assets), where she has just finished a four-year term. “Artists are very responsive to the needs of the people,” she says. “As with any successful board or group, you need a broad range of disciplines [and] different viewpoints. That really creates a holistic view.”

Laura is a third-generation member of New Community Credit Union. The 76-year-old cooperative was the first Ukrainian credit union outside the borders of that country – one of the reasons why her relatives chose to bank there. “My grandparents came from rural Saskatchewan with not a lot of credit history. [The credit union gave them] a chance and they’ve only flourished from that early opportunity,” says Laura. Her grandmother is still alive, she notes, and NCCU is still hers – and Laura’s – only financial services institution. “There’s something about tradition,” she adds.

Branching out

Laura is also looking to continue another family tradition: she’s investigating the possibility of starting a new branch of the Emma conference. Flying to Saskatchewan can be expensive for people from outside the country – especially young, emerging artists – and her goal is to make a conference that’s more accessible to artists all over the world by holding it in the States.

In the upcoming year, Laura will also be travelling to Denmark to learn basket weaving and then to Boston’s MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to research the role of creativity in information exchange.

“Who knows where my career could lead me,” she says. “As long as I’m using my hands, I feel very content.” ◊