Reporters and visitors from around North America will be gathering in a tent behind the Mendel Art Gallery today hoping to see Joni Mitchell's work and perhaps catch a glimpse of the artist herself.
On Thursday a crew of gardeners pruned, weeded and raked the Japanese garden while a woman hosed down the walkways in preparation for today's opening of Mitchell's exhibition.
Organizers are expecting 5,000 people, including reporters, photographers and television crews from Canada and the United States, said Ian Eichborn, who is helping to co-ordinate the event.
They include the Globe and Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, New York Times, CBC, CTV, Fashion Television from Toronto and Bravo Television, which will attend to create a segment that will probably also be aired on MuchMusic, Much More Music and CityTV.
Newsweek magazine will also run a story on the exhibit in next week's edition, though it's not sending a reporter to the opening, Eichhorn said.
"There's the celebrity status that's bringing some of the national and international media but there are also a good number of people who are really interested in covering the artwork, which is as it should be," he said.
Eichhorn answered many phone calls and e-mails from people who are travelling to Saskatoon for the opening.
Among them is a woman from New Jersey, who "scraped together" the money to come, Eichhorn said. He arranged to meet her at the gallery when she arrived Wednesday and show her around.
He also expects visitors from New Orleans, Vermont, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago and Iowa. Inquiries have come from Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Australia and London, England.
He has also been in contact with a couple of ladies, 85 and 86 years old, who are driving to Saskatoon from New Brunswick for the event.
Eichhorn said he doesn't know whether Mitchell has invited any celebrity friends. He smiled when asked if he had heard a rumour that Jack Nicholson might come.
"I've heard that too. I think it's just a rumour. I couldn't say either way but I'd sure like to see him," he said.
But it's Mitchell herself the fans who've contacted the gallery want to see, he said.
Although it's not unusual for an artist to attend the opening of her show, it is less common when the artist is a celebrity, Eichhorn said.
Business began picking up at the gallery gift shop two weeks ago, as curious visitors began stopping in to find out more about the exhibition, store supervisor Michael Gibson said Thursday.
"Sales have already increased from people curious to see what's happening," Gibson said as a handful of customers waited to pay for postcards despite the gallery itself being closed in preparation for today's opening.
The gallery store has posters advertising the show for sale for $10 each.
It's also selling a 64-page, full colour, hard cover edition of the exhibition catalogue for $45.
For those that prefer a more exclusive memento, the gallery is also selling poster reproductions of the paintings Mitchell made for the front and back of her latest CD, Both Sides Now. Signed posters come with a hefty $450 price tag while those without autographs are for sale for $300.
The posters are exclusive, not just because of their prices, but because they are being sold only at the gallery, not by mail order or on the gallery's Web site, Eichhorn said.
They are the same posters that Mitchell sold at her recently completed U.S. tour to promote the CD, said Eichhorn.
"From what I've heard from people who saw her concerts this past year, she brings a few things and those who have made an effort to come and see the actual show, she has a few things that people, if they wish to, can pick up."
About 500 people have been invited to a private reception and viewing with Mitchell before the free public opening at 8 p.m.
Mitchell will attend the public opening as well. It will begin with comments in front of the gallery by dignitaries, such as Premier Roy Romanov and Mayor Henry Dayday. Visitors will then be allowed into the gallery and later outside to an outdoor reception behind the gallery.
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