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Gallery may not be 'right place' for Joni Mitchell collection: Burke Print-ready version

by Charles Hamilton
Regina Leader-Post
June 18, 2013

The new CEO of the Mendel Art Gallery says he wants a collection of Joni Mitchell's personal artifacts to stay in Saskatoon, but he's not sure the city's new art gallery would be the right place to showcase it.

"Given the significance of Joni Mitchell, I would be an advocate of the collection staying in Saskatoon. It would be a benefit for the city," said Gregory Burke.

"All things being equal, given what I have heard about the nature of the artifacts, I would question if the Remai is the right place."

Burke said he was unaware that the collection — which includes Mitchell's high school grad dress, scrap books and old recordings — even existed until a StarPhoenix article broke the news over the weekend.

Ron Lamb, a close family friend who has been keeping the Mitchell collection, said the singer is frustrated that the city can't find a place to showcase the artifacts and she is considering moving the collection elsewhere.

Lamb had suggested that the new Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan, which opens in 2016, might be a suitable place. But Burke and other city officials say they haven't been approached by Lamb or Mitchell about taking on the artifacts.

Burke also said he is still in the process of developing the new gallery's acquisitions policy, and therefore can't say whether the collection is something he would consider purchasing.

One city councillor was also taken off guard by Saturday's revelations.

"That was news to me. I didn't know that those artifacts existed," Coun. Darren Hill said.

Hill said the city should take advantage of the opportunity to display the work of an internationally famous musician who grew up in Saskatoon.

"My understanding is that Joni Mitchell is very particular on what will be named after her and can be named after her and wants to be consulted in the process, which makes sense, (but) I do think we need to see where the city can become involved," Hill said.

If the collection does not find a permanent home here, it could be moved to B.C. or Los Angeles, where Mitchell owns homes. Universities are also interested in the materials, according to Lamb.

In 2005, plans for development of River Landing included a Joni Mitchell Centre for Creativity, which would have provided a permanent home to display the Mitchell artifacts. Those plans, however, fell through after federal funding was allocated elsewhere.

Neither city council nor the Mendel Art Gallery has received any requests about the collection.

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