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Society dissolves; Ryga legacy endures

July 14th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FROM: The George Ryga Centre Society
DATE: July 14, 2014
SUBJECT: THE GEORGE RYGA CENTRE SOCIETY BOWS OUT WITH A FLOURISH

It is with mixed feelings that members of the George Ryga Centre Society of Summerland voted in late June to dissolve after distributing a number of grants aimed at preserving the literary and spiritual legacy of George Ryga (1932-1987), one of Canada’s foremost writers. The celebrated author of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe and many other plays, poems and novels lived in Summerland, B.C., between 1960 and his early death in 1987.

The Society was formed in the 1990s to preserve his house as a retreat for writers and songwriters. There were also play-readings, workshops and other celebrations held at the house and its extensive gardens planted by Norma and George Ryga. In recent years these activities decreased and a plan by Okanagan College to take over the operations of the Centre and make much needed renovations in the house fell through. To pay off its debts, the Society decided to sell the house in 2012, and use the remaining funds from the sale to honour Ryga’s name and perpetuate his legacy through other nonprofit cultural institutions and/or programs.

We awarded the following grants:

The largest was made to the Banff Centre to endow a playwriting bursary at the annual Playwrights Colony. The grant is being matched by the Banff Centre from federal funds it receives, and this spring two young playwrights became the first recipients of the bursary. George Ryga was born in a tiny Ukrainian community in northern Alberta and won scholarships to the Banff School as a teenager; he attributed this opportunity as the first impetus he received to become a professional writer.

For more information about the Banff Centre Playwrights Colony, contact the Office of the Registrar, registrars_office@banffcentre.ca, or call 1.403.762.6180.

Sellars, Bev 2014 Ryga Prize

Bev Sellers (second from left) won this year’s Ryga Award for her memoir, They Called Me Number One. She is flanked by Norah Bowman-Broz of Okanagan College (left); and Keith Ferlin (Ryga Society president) and Anne Chudnyk (Ryga’s sister).

For more

Another substantial endowment was given to Pacific BookWorld News Society to take over the administration of the George Ryga Book Award for Social Awareness. The Award was conceived by Alan Twigg of BC BookWorld, the largest Canadian publication devoted to books, and poet John Lent who was then working at Okanagan College. For the past decade the college’s English Department has administered the Award with Alan Twigg’s help and the participation of the Ryga Society; it is given for books published in BC the previous year that best reflect Ryga’s own writing about social injustice. For information and eligibility for the Award please consult the website: www.bcbookawards.ca/

The Society gave a one-time grant to IndigenEYEZ BC to commemorate the profound and historic impact of George Ryga’s work on relations between the indigenous peoples in BC and the larger community. The grant, which is matched dollar for dollar by the Watson Foundation, will fund a Power of Hope training workshop in developing techniques for youth empowerment for members of the Okanagan Nation Alliance.

For further information, contact Kelly Terbasket, Program Director,
IndigenEYEZ BC, (Kelly_Terbasket@nethop.net), or visit the Okanagan Nation Alliance
website, http://www.syilx.org/.

A grant was made to the Friends of the Summerland Library Society to explore the best ways to commemorate George Ryga in the new Library, scheduled to open late 2015. Possibilities include funding a permanent exhibit for his literary works and memorabilia in collaboration with the Summerland Museum; a special area or room in the library, and/or a commemorative plaque or bench honouring Ryga and his family. The Friends will hold the funds in trust until plans for the library are finalized.

Contact Pat Flett, president of the Friends of the Summerland Library
(artandpat@shaw.ca) or Sue Kline, Community Librarian (skline@orl.bc.ca)

Finally, another local grant was made to the Good Will Shakespeare Society, which for the past fifteen years has brought thousands of arts students to Summerland for a three-day celebration of the performing arts. Founded and co-ordinated by beloved drama teacher and Summerlander Linda Beaven, the Festival attracts up to 400 high
school students from the province to Summerland where they participate in intensive all-day workshops involving all aspects of performance, backstage work and writing. The grant will enable the Festival to invite a prominent instructor each of the next four years and to provide a scholarship for a writing student, who otherwise may not be able to attend. In awarding the grant, the Ryga Society recognizes that George Ryga, who was forced to quit school at 12, might now inspire young people to aspire to careers in the arts.

Contact: Linda Beaven 250-494-1248. (www.goodwillshakespeare.ca).

Although the George Ryga Centre has now ceased to exist, we all hope that the spirit of George Ryga will continue to inhabit the places where he lived and worked and will continue to inspire new generations. And his former home, through the generosity of its new owner, will host a birthday celebration in late July, where George Ryga will be
remembered by his friends, family, and neighbours.

For more information, contact:
Keith Ferlin, President, George Ryga Centre Society
Email: kferlin@shaw.ca
Phone: 250-494-9877

2 Responses to “Society dissolves; Ryga legacy endures”

  1. Jordan Nicholas says:

    Please tell Me His house will NOT be demolished and replaced by a skyscraper or more condos for crying out loud.

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