2009 Moose Jaw Honours Award
Presented to Gary Hyland
April 23, 2009
Gary Hyland, born in 1940, grew up in Moose Jaw as a “South Hill boy”. He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in Arts & Science and
Gary is known by his peers as a writer, editor and poet. For years he wrote a column for Freelance titled “Becoming a Writer: Some Ways and Means”. He is a long-time member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. In 1980 he helped found a school for writers, called the Sage Hill Writing Experience, which is now one of the country’s most respected writing programs. Together with three other local writers he started Coteau Books, a small press which has published many Saskatchewan writers. Undoubtedly Gary Hyland has made our province a better place for writers.
In 1982 Gary published his first book of poetry entitled Just Off Main. Seven more books of poetry followed. Love of Mirrors, released in 2008, won both the prestigious Book of the Year and the Poetry award at the Saskatchewan Book Awards gala. His latest book You appeared last fall.
When it comes to volunteer activities, Gary is one of a kind. Moose Jaw would not have a thriving cultural community without his drive, determination and tireless work. Perhaps the best example of this is the Festival of Words. He got the idea in 1996 when he realized there were no literary festivals in the prairie provinces, and he asked himself “Why not in Moose Jaw?” The Festival would never have gotten off the ground if it were not for Gary’s leadership and hard work at every level of the organization.
He recruited volunteers, planned programs, contacted speakers, organized events, worked fund raisers, wrote grant applications, trained staff, and even fixed computers. For eleven years he was the unpaid Artistic Coordinator who made the festival fly. Today, in its 13th year the festival is known as a raging success right across Canada.
One of Gary’s greatest contributions to this community was when he single-handedly gathered all the information, prepared the application, and was successful in having Moose Jaw declared a Cultural Capital of Canada for populations of less than 50,000. Not only was this a great boost for the image of our city, it made $500,000 available for cultural activities. Some of these activities included: 30 performances of the River Street Musical, a series of four plays running several nights each, the Regina Symphony for five concerts, Ken Mitchell’s Medicine Line for 3 nights, and for the children Who is Mrs. Wilson?, and Cinemagic. In addition it provided funding for the Festival of Words and Prairie Arts Festival.
On one occasion when Gary was in Toronto, he was annoyed and frustrated by the attitude of Toronto publicists. When they heard he lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan he was treated with condescension or dismissal. He said “I’m proud of Moose Jaw and Saskatchewan and those who scoff at us or are patronizing should be staked out naked in Taylor Field in January!”
Gary Hyland has accomplished so much in such a short span. He would be the first to tell you that it would never have been possible without his wife Sharon. It has been her understanding, unqualified support, and tender loving care that has enabled him to achieve so many amazing goals. His three sons Mark, Michael, and Miles are justifiably proud of their father.