Category Archives: Uncategorized

Saskatchewan stays strong

Jan. 31, 2013 — The StarPhoenix & The Leader-Post

Though stuck in the middle geographically, Saskatchewan is at the top.

The prairie province is thriving in all sectors of the economy, leading the way for the rest of Canada. After a crowning year in 2011, the Saskatchewan economy maintained growth in 2012 and all indicators point to continued growth for the province in 2013 – fueling the once “have-not” province down the road to prosperity.

“We are exceptionally strong,” says Steve McLellan, CEO of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. “We are producing all the things that the world needs. [Certain sectors] will fluctuate from month to month as the year goes on, but over the course of any long-term span, Saskatchewan is exceptionally well positioned and will continue to be.”

A Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) report released in September 2012 forecasted Saskatchewan’s gross domestic product (GDP) to rise 3.6 per cent in 2012, and further increase in 2013 with projected growth of 4.0 per cent. In comparison, the national average is estimated at 2.1 per cent growth for 2012 and 2.4 per cent for 2013. The outlook indicates that Saskatchewan is continuing to be an economic force to reckon with – a force fueled by recent acceleration in provincial employment growth and stronger than expected gains in manufacturing sales, wholesale trade and retail sales.

Securing a top spot in their claim-to-fame category, Saskatchewan should maintain increases in crop production numbers in 2012 and 2013, but the same can’t be said for its non-food commodity prices. The global demand for potash slowed in 2012, causing production cutbacks at provincial mines going into 2013. Although weaker than anticipated, the pursuit of potash from Saskatchewan still remains robust enough for the province to maintain above average levels of profit.

“We have some sectors that are off from the previous year – that’s just the nature of business. Even if they are down a bit, they are still double or triple where they were a decade ago. And that’s the important thing,” says McLellan.

“It’s like a hockey player suggesting he had a very tough year – he only made two million dollars. Well, he still had a very good year, but he’s just down from the year before. So when you look at how all that translates into the provincial economy and the provincial government budget, it’s exceptionally encouraging to see that a couple of sectors can be a bit off, but we are still doing very well.”

A mid-year budget released by the Saskatchewan government in November projects a $239.8 million drop in potash revenue, and a $164.6 million drop in oil. But despite the signifi cant downturn, the provincial budget is still on track to balance in the black – a testament to the success of the province as a whole, according to Minister of the Economy Bill Boyd.

“Our economy, in general, is performing very well. We are seeing some areas of our economy out-performing what was thought to be their expected performance for the year, and as a result of that, we still have a balanced budget here in Saskatchewan. The good news is that we have many, many areas of our economy that are performing very well,” he said.

“The growth in the economy – which we have been very actively promoting – is really making a difference in terms of anytime that we have a slight pullback in other areas of the economy.”

Business ideologies going into 2013

With recent changes to Saskatchewan labor laws and a projected unemployment rate of 4.6 per cent in 2013, the New Year might become the year of working smarter, not harder.

“I think we are going to start into a new era where businesses start to work smarter, [using] themes like innovation and productivity and the use of more digital equipment and technology to enhance efficiencies across businesses. This is already evident in the agriculture industry with GPS on equipment, it’s evident in manufacturing with more robotics and pieces like that in place, and it’s also evident in systems where productivity and things like lean manufacturing is a much more prevalent concept than it ever was,” says McLellan, who notes the Chamber of Commerce, the provincial government and many businesses see the benefit of this outlook on production.

By continuing to use innovative practices and new technologies, Saskatchewan businesses can work towards increasing outputs without increasing costs, while at the same time, securing the province a spot on the world stage.
“The innovation economy which we are definitely promoting here in Saskatchewan further diversifies our economy and is making a big difference,” says Boyd. “We are seeing companies from around the world actively investing in our province, resulting in much stronger employment numbers – up just under 16,000 people from last year -and really makes a strong impact on our economy in a positive way.”

The year of the party
After working hard to establish solid roots in the Canadian economy over the last few years, Saskatchewan will reap the social benefits of their success in 2013. Regina will host the 2013 JUNO Awards in April, followed by the 101st Grey Cup in November – two of the most high profile events in Canada. Bringing in droves of visitors on two separate occasions, the events will not only fill hotel rooms and restaurants, but also showcase Saskatchewan as a tourist destination and a hub of sport and culture.
“Economically, there is no question that [the 2013 events] are a big deal. But more important than the economics, is the attitude adjustment that we get from it, from both from our own residents … and the attitude and the perspective of those who come to the events,” says McLellan, who adds the intangible profits are undoubtedly more important than the physical dollars the events will produce.
“The real benefits are not the expenditures that happen on [those weekends] – the real benefits are the investments that people make both mentally and longer-term into Saskatchewan,” says McLellan.

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National Housing Day draws attention to local initiatives

Nov.22, 2012 — The StarPhoenix

Shirley Isbister has practiced what she preaches.

President of the Central Urban Metis Federation (CUMFI), Isbister works to create affordable housing for low-income Aboriginal families through supported living homes. Having already completed two major affordable rental projects in the last decade, CUMFI is working towards meeting the housing needs of middle-to low-income families in Saskatoon.

Having once lived in the conditions that many of the people she works with face today, Isbister knows the importance of CUMFI’s contribution to the community.

“The majority of the people on our board of directors have faced poverty – lots of us, extreme poverty – so we always knew that we needed to do something about housing,” she says.

CUMFI’s everyday work is focused in the core of the city, but today, it is being recognized on a national scale as a part of National Housing Day. Celebrating organizations and individuals across Canada who are doing their part to provide affordable housing solutions, National Housing Day brings people together in cities around the country to talk about housing issues.

In Saskatoon, Isbister is the keynote speaker at a local event – providing a fi tting message geared towards this year’s theme of Building Solutions for Affordable Rental Housing.

“The significance [of National Housing Day] to me is for people to get an understanding of what it means to live in poverty, and what it means to have a roof over their head, because without that, you can’t think about education or employment or anything else,” says Isbister.CUMFI Housing004.JPG

“I myself grew up in extreme poverty. So I will be talking about the issues that I faced then. But also about what CUMFI means to the community and how far we have moved forward and how far we have come. I want to tell the story of how CUMFI grew and all the other positive things have happened – from the original housing units, to education, to employment.”

The annual event is put on by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the City of Saskatoon and Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership.

“Every year, we host a breakfast and invite housing providers and those working on improving housing in Saskatoon,basically to thank them for their work. Without them, people wouldn’t have safe places to live,” says Shaun Dyck, executive director of the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP).

“At the event, we have presenters from the city, the province and the federal government to give an overview of the housing market in the province and offer a knowledge transfer. A keynote speaker follows to talk about the annual theme that we have – the theme changes every year and it focuses around the challenges that our city is facing in regards to housing.”

The 2012 theme, Building Solutions for Affordable Rental Housing, is something Dyck says is worth drawing attention to, especially in Saskatoon’s housing market.

“We’ve seen quite a major increase in rent over the last few years. Since 2006, rents have increased by 59 per cent but pre-tax incomes have only increased, on average, by about 26 per cent. So that’s quite an issue. Plus, at the same time, there has been signifi cant condo conversion happening, where we lost around 3,500 units to what they call ‘the rental universe’ in Saskatoon,” he says.

“So you have population increase, supply decreasing, incomes not rising as fast and rental prices pushing people into situations where you see you see homelessness increase and you see families having to show up to shelters. So with that being said, we thought this was the time to bring this issue to the forefront.”

“While there has been a lot of increase in affordable home ownership in Saskatoon, and there are some good local programs out there for rental units, more needs to be done.”

As one of those successful local programs, CUMFI is facilitating positive change in the core of Saskatoon.

“We not only offer the affordable housing and the supported living homes, but we have all the other services that go with it. And that’s the key to having people make changes for themselves,” says Isbister. “Everyone that lives in our affordable housing suites has access to CUMFI supports. And [all of our buildings] are drug and alcohol free. They all have cameras to provide a safer environment”

Proving the signifi cance of a safe, affordable home, CUMFI housing units in the inner-city neighborhood of Pleasant Hill have seen major successes, experiencing both an increase in resident education and a decrease in neighborhood crime.

“In one of our supported living homes last year, 78 per cent of our moms were in education programs. And when we bought the buildings on Ave. U S. and Ave. T S., the Chief of police and the mayor announced there was a 68 per cent drop in crime rate in that area,” says Isbister.

National Housing Day was born on November 22, 1998 in response to nationwide homelessness and a lack of affordable housing in cities around the country.

From Regina to Rogue

Sept. 17 — The Leader-Post

At first, Olivia Medina didn’t know what she was getting herself into. Some days, she still doesn’t. But with a career that has taken the 21-year-old Regina-bred model from photo shoots in Shanghai to runway shows in Tokyo, there’s no time for second-guessing.

Since taking her modeling career international in 2010, Medina has found herself constantly shifting between airports, make-up chairs and designer bodysuits. But in the last year, Medina has grown to find comfort in the craziness, along with skyrocketing success. By looking at her extensive portfolio of high-fashion photos, you might never know, but the gorgeous professionalism that is Olivia Medina all started on a runway in Victoria Square Mall.

“My agent Lisa Marie (Schwartz) asked if I was interested in doing a fashion show in the mall … and since it involved me missing a day of Kindergarten, I just couldn’t say no!” said Medina in an interview squeezed between flights from the Philippians to Toronto. “After I did the show, it was the best moment of my life — even at age 6. I had so much fun even though it made me so nervous.”

Growing up — and subsequently growing into her long legs and slender frame — she continued to model in local fashion shows with Edge Agency. With a signature self-taught runway walk and a face that is flattering at any angle, Medina quickly built up a poised portfolio of work. By her teens, she was modeling for local magazines and became a poster-girl for NWL Contemporary Dresses. But Medina has never been the type to stay in one place for too long. With her sights set on traveling, Medina’s agent, Lisa Marie Schwartz, turned to agencies in Tokyo with her portfolio. The feedback was positive — and resulted in 18-year-old Medina hugging her parents goodbye and boarding a one-way flight to Asia.

“I promised my parents I’d finish high school before leaving Regina. So once I graduated, I was off to Tokyo,” she said. “It was a huge step in my life. Leaving not just Regina for the first time, but leaving the country itself was scary — especially since I was doing everything on my own with no one to rely on or hold my hand through it all.”

For the next year, Medina flew back and forth from Tokyo to Shanghai, working jobs in both markets, and living in hotel rooms in between. She spent Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and her 19th birthday alone. Struggling with the fact that she never had a permanent place to call home, Medina quickly learned that in order to succeed in the industry, she was going to have to make sacrifices.

“At first it was really hard for me to adjust to living in hotels and traveling on planes and trains long hours. You meet someone, but either you’re leaving the country in the next month or they are leaving, which leaves you no time to have a normal relationship. The modeling lifestyle isn’t for everyone. As much as it looks like a glamorous career, there is always a price you pay. It’s a price every model has to pay sometime in their life.”

Paying that price at a young age has helped Medina to reach new heights in her career as an international model. In a matter of months, her consistent commitment in front of the camera has taken her from a fresh-faced prairie import to a recognized, professional model. It has secured her spots walking in runway shows for popular brands like La Senza, Penshoppe and BENCH, as well as acting roles in commercials for Downy, and contracts with widely recognized clothing designers like Boom Sassoon.

It has also landed her, quite literally, modeling in a country that is deeply rooted in her bronzed skin and unique features. Medina flew to the Philippines in August of 2011, and has since been making waves in front of the lens and on runways around the country.

“I’ve always wanted to leave Regina and explore, expand my options in life and learn more about my roots back in the Philippines. My father is Filipino — he was born and raised there and then immigrated to Canada. I wasn’t exactly sure how or when I would leave, but it was always set in my heart that it was something I had to do one day when I was old enough,” she said.

And in the past year, not only has she reconnected with her roots, Medina has appeared in nine TV commercials, 23 fashion shows and done 88 photo shoots. This September, she graced the cover of Rogue, one of the largest fashion magazines in the country — a dream for any model, but especially for Medina.

“Since I had arrived in the Philippines, every month, I would pick up a Rogue magazine and wish one day it was me [on the cover]. Well, that wish finally came true,” said Medina, gushing with pride. “The day of the shoot I was still in awe. Then, as soon as the book stores and Rogue tweeted me saying that the magazine was in stores, I rushed out to buy a copy. I stood in front of the magazine stand with a huge smile on my face. I really couldn’t believe it was me.”

Confident that it’s only the first of many covers to come, Medina is still humble, knowing her success didn’t come without sacrifice, and won’t continue without a few more lonely nights in a hotel in a foreign country.

“I look at every job as an opportunity, regardless if it’s a big job or small job. It means a lot to me that every day I wake up having the opportunity and ability to do what I enjoy and love most,” she said. “No matter how discouraging some situations can be, I have to rise above it stay positive and work hard to reach the success point that I want to be at in my career.”

She doesn’t even have to say it for people to believe it.

“It’s so obvious that for Olivia, modeling really is who she is. She lives and breathes the fashion industry,” said Schwartz. “She always wants to do better for herself and proves that time and time again with the clients that she works with and the designers that keep hiring her. She is one of those unique models that wants to perfect everything that she does in the industry, and I think that keeps her ahead of the other girls.”

“She wants to, and has, made it a career, but she also wants longevity in this industry. This is not just a part-time thing for her.”

With plans to continue her modeling career in Asia, or expand it into Europe or New York, it’s clear that Medina’s passion is not fading anytime soon. And with experience and exposure like hers, neither are the opportunities.

The next 50 years

July 23, 2012 —The Leader-Post and The StarPhoenix 

The induction of Medicare into Saskatchewan law 50 years ago has done more than just provide affordable health care — it has also placed importance on the values of equality and democracy.

“We have seen a real establishment of an ethic and understanding that people should be treated if they’re sick — regardless of how much money they make and of where they are in society,” said Ryan Meili, a family physician in Saskatoon and the head of the Division of Social Accountability at the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.  “I think that’s a really positive thing to have been developed here and it effects the way we see lots of areas of social investment.”

Meili, who wrote the recently-published book A Healthy Society: How a Focus on Health Can Revive Canadian Democracy, recognizes the province’s past accolades in health care, but says as society evolves, Medicare needs to change with it.

“We’re very much in the second stage of Medicare and need to move beyond just doctors and hospitals to looking at what really keeps us healthy and makes us sick.”

“There are definitely areas where we have moved forward … but I think it would be pretty widely accepted that we haven’t really gone beyond treatment — we’re mostly still dealing with people after they are sick, rather than looking at ‘How do we actually organize our society in a way that fewer people get sick’?”

After 50 years of developing the Medicare model, Saskatchewan is now at a pivotal point — faced with moving beyond health care that focuses on short-term treatment of immediate cases. Looking beyond just the immune system and into the causes of poor long-term health is the next logical step for the province, says Meili.

He suggests that in order to achieve that, people must understand how social determinants like income, education and employment affect personal health.

“It’s all connected. We have the idea that we can just deal with our bodies once they are sick, but in our society, that’s far too narrow of a view,” he said.

Factors like housing, nutrition and social support also need to be taken into consideration.

“If you look at where health care dollars go, we spend a lot more on people who are at the lower end of the economic scale. We don’t have actual primary care services available in an equitable fashion, so people wind up in a hospital, in the emergency room and where things are most expensive. So number one, it’s looking at addressing things like poverty, where people are living, the circumstances where people get sick; and number two,  it’s addressing health equity — making sure that we provide more services for the people who need them most, rather than the way it is right now.”

Roy Romano, former premier of Saskatchewan, also recognizes the importance of taking these factors into consideration for the future. He is quoted in the foreword of A Healthy Society saying: “The impact of the social determinants of health is well known to government and to health care organizations. The major challenge in us lies in turning this understanding into concrete actions that have an impact on individual Canadians and communities.”

With a proud past, Saskatchewan is embarking on the next 50 years with a strong foundation. Future government leaders and health care professionals have the task of addressing the current issues with the system, while continuing to build on the successes of its past. If Tommy Douglas’s original visions of equality and unanimous access to health care are kept alive, Medicare has a bright future to come.

“On July 1, 1962, we had doctors taking to the streets going on strike against the provision of universal health care. On June 18, 2012, we had a national day of action across the country with doctors taking to the streets protesting cuts to refugee health, saying that we need to provide universal health care, and we need to address health equity in the services we provide. So that, to me, says there has been a cultural shift within the health care providing professions, and that gives me hope,” said Meili.

“And hopefully that continues — [Saskatchewan] having people working in the system having a desire for social change and who are willing to spark a conversation that will help us move beyond treatment to better health care.”

Time selective sympathy

After interviewing Maiko for a radio story on Japan one year after the earthquake, I couldn’t get her story out of my mind. So when the next day, we were asked to write editorials in our print class, I used her story again in my take on humanitarian aid and social media.

Time selective sympathy

On March 11, 2011, all eyes were on Japan. More than 20,000 people lost their lives or went missing after a 9.0 earthquake rocked the country and massive tsunami washed over the rubble.

In response, the world opened their hearts and their wallets to share an outpouring of support to the disaster-stricken country. They also opened their laptops. On that day, the hashtag #PrayForJapan was the #1 most popular topic on Twitter and 5,530 tweets per second were sent out.

It was tragic, it was timely, and it was trending. Now, one year later, it’s tapped-out.

The #1 most popular Twitter topic on March 11, 2012 was #10MusiciansIWannaBang.

The urgency and immediacy for aid has worn off—perhaps because the reality isn’t a day-to-day experience for the rest of the world. The colossal event has come and gone. The footage has been forgotten, and other events have become more exciting.

But while it seems as if the rest of the world has stopped tweeting and praying for those stricken by the disaster, Japan has done anything but forget.

22-year-old Maiko Kurtotaki lost everything as a result of the quake—her home, her possessions, her entire livelihood. She has since rebuilt, but is still faced with the reality of the disaster every single day. With fears of another quake and the effects of radiation, Kurotaki carries bags of food with her everywhere she goes and won’t spend long periods of time outdoors.

For weeks after the quake, breaking news stories splashed the covers of newspapers and television screens around the world, but soon they faded, being replaced with other stories. Not in Japan. The fateful day the country was rocked and the resulting damage remains in the news every day—so prominently that Kurotaki refuses to buy a television.

So while 325,000 Japanese people are still in temporary housing and landscape of the country is in shambles, the need for aid remains, but the attention has ceased.

It’s easy to tweet when it’s trending and sympathize when it’s sensational, but what humanitarian aid is missing is follow through. So as tweeters around the world go on following the trends, those living in the country still face the reality of #PrayForJapan.

Japan: one year later

On March 11, 2011, the entire world was tweeting #prayforjapan after a massive earthquake and tsunami shook the country. Like thousands of others, Maiko Kurotaki’s home was entirely destroyed and she was left scared and unsure about the future. I caught up with her over Skype to see how things have changed one year later.

Canada Post honors Fafard

March 2, 2012 — The World-Spectator and Whitewood Herald 

REGINA – Even though parts of it are buried under a pile of potash, Joe Fafard’s ties with his hometown of Ste-Marthe are as strong as ever.

The renowned prairie artist’s work has been featured on Canada Post’s 2012 Art Canada issue stamps. On March 2, the three stamps were officially unveiled to a crowd of media and Fafard fans at the main post office in Regina.

 “I’m very excited and it really is a pleasure to be able to do this—to get this honour from            Canada Post and Canada in general,” said Fafard, noting the stamps rank as the #1 honour  he has received in his career.

“This is the top. I think it’s because it involves people in general. It’s a very populist kind of  thing—it’s not like an honorarium that’s isolated from the general population.”

“I feel like I’m really part of the ebb and flow of the country. Everybody deals with mail in one   kind or another and it’s something that everyone can get involved with. There are going to be  four billion of them printed out so it’s a big deal.”

And these stamps aren’t the only connection Fafard has to Canada Post. From April 1951 to  October 1969, his father Leopold Fafard was the post master at the office in Ste-Marthe-    Rocanville. Although the original post office no longer exists, Ste-Marthe-Rocanville has      been chosen as the honorary cancellation site of the issue’s official first day cover.

“The connection that my father had with his community was very important. He was a people person, and he just loved that kind of contact with people. I like that type of contact as well, and this stamp is like that contact that he had with people, so I’m very thrilled by the launch being there,” said Fafard.

“We were 10 miles from Rocanville, where the potash is now. The location of the school that I went to is now under that pile. But Ste-Marthe, which is just two miles south of the pile, is still there and my family still lives there. So it’s a nice connection.”

The three stamps feature images of Fafard’s famous artwork—the domestic stamp, titled Smoothly She Sifted, features one of his popular bovine sculpturesthe U.S. stamp, titled Dear Vincent, depicts the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, and the international stamp, titled Capillery, showcases a sculpture of three bronze horses. A classic Fafard horse is also featured on the first day cover, in a detailed drawing called Fancy.

Fafard’s Canada Art issue stamps are now available for purchase from Canada Post.

From sculptures to stamps

Saskatchewan’s famous sculptor Joe Fafard’s artwork has been selected to be featured on the Canada Post 2012 Canada Art Issue stamps. A flurry of media and Fafard fans filled the main post office in Regina on March 2 for the unveiling of the stamps.

http://www.jschool.ca/index.php/newswire/642-fafard-honored-by-canada-post

Insane Ink makes its mark in small-town Saskatchewan

Feb. 13, 2012 —   The World Spectator & Whitewood Herald

To the average passerby, the small prairie town of Whitewood doesn’t seem like a typical home for a tattoo and piercing studio, but Jerry Martin knew better.

“We decided that Whitewood was the perfect place to open the shop because it’s dead centre of Canada,” said Martin, owner of Insane Ink Tattoo and Piercing Studio.

The independent studio opened its doors at 604 3rd Avenue this Febraury, and is already making its mark on arms and legs in the community.

“As soon as I opened up the shop here, people were driving up from the U.S. to get tattoos with us. There are a ton of people coming from in the community, and a lot of people coming in from outside communities too. You name them—we’ve got them. We just tattooed the owner of the hotel last night and the manager from the bank yesterday,” said Martin.

Steve An, owner of the Whitewood Inn, is in the process of getting his first tattoo at Insane Ink. He would have driven to Brandon or Regina to get the ink on his arm, but is happy to get it done locally.

“Going to the city was the only option for tattoos out here until they opened up. And they do custom work, which is great,” said An.

Although it’s prime location was the motivation behind opening Insane Ink in Whitewood, Martin says the town has already proved to be the perfect place to expand his ink initiative.

“I have always been a city guy, but (Whitewood) is a safe community, it’s a nice quiet community, and they are very receptive to new businesses. In fact, it was actually the town’s idea to help me get a loan for 30 grand to open the place. I thought it was odd myself, I thought for sure with tattoos it would be a little different, but they’re a great community,” he said.

“The guy who sold me the building held off two months just to make sure that I got it—and he was an older gentleman in his 70s. They are really supportive here and there is a line up for tattoos and piercings all the time.”

Opening a new business in the middle of rural Saskatchewan can be a risky endeavor, especially when that business is unconventional. But it was a gamble Martin was willing to take.

“Sure I took a chance, but the truth is, if you don’t take a chance you’re never going to know. I’m certainly glad I had the patience and I waited to do everything properly,” he said.

“I did a lot of research before I got into this, and the amount of people that are looking for tattoos these days is absolutely crazy. It’s a market that’s been around for centuries, and its not going to go anywhere. In fact, it’s getting more and more prominent now these days.”

From the time he purchased the building in Whitewood, it took Martin 13 months to open the tattoo shop. Staring with making sure he met health code, bringing in proper equipment, and registering his company, a lot of effort went into making sure things were done right at Insane Ink.

One of those processes was hiring a tattoo artist.

Robb Sutherland, also originally from Vancouver, saw the online job posting and jumped on the opportunity to trade in the B.C. city craziness for a more relaxing life in rural Saskatchewan.

“Whitewood is a nice little community, and I wanted somewhere nice to raise my family. Vancouver is just getting too big and crazy for my family and I, so I wanted to come out to a small community for that, as well as for the job. I had been trying to find a nice place to bring my family for quite a while now, so all the cards just fell into place,” said Sutherland, who started at Insane Ink three weeks ago.

Previously an artist at Anarchy Ink Tattoos in Vancouver, Sutherland has been tattooing for 20 years. He expected an obvious change in client base and desired tattoo designs with the new location, but admits he is surprised at amount of people wanting ink in Whitewood.

“We get all walks of people out here—we’ve had doctors, farmers, and a lot of people you would not expect to be getting tattooed are coming,” he said.

Not only can you now get a tattoo in Whitewood, you can also learn to give one. In addition to being a walk-in tattoo and piercing studio, Insane Ink is also a product supplier and a school. The International School of Body Art, which educates aspiring tattoo artists, has two training schools in North America—one in Wisconsin, and the other one at 604 3rd Avenue, Whitewood.

“When it comes to tattooing, it’s very hard to find someone that will teach you, so we just thought we would give people a proper education. We came out with our training DVDs first, then we started doing the online courses, and then we opened the schools because of all the interest,” said Martin.

Martin, originally from Vancouver, and his business partner Gary Grey Jr. founded the International School of Body Art in 2007. The school is a registered education corporation that provides apprenticing tattoo artists the opportunity to be trained on the Tattoo Apprenticeship Certificate Course. Through a combination of face-to-face teaching, DVD/online training and a total of 600 hours of study, students learn about tattooing from artist Gary Grey Jr. Martin estimates he sold over $120,000 in DVDs last year alone, and the program has trained over 500 artists internationally since 2007.

“We have students who are police, lawyers, Army students from overseas, and a lot of our students come from South Africa. Australia is really big, India, Germany, and the UK is definitely really big too,” said Martin.

Classes thus far have been held at the Wisconsin location, but the first Canadian class will be held March 7-11 at Insane Ink in Whitewood.

An, who understands the workings of small town business, sees the benefit of bringing a bold new venture to Whitewood. He says it helps to change up the traditional small-town landscape and bring new life to the town.

“I’m a businessman as well here in town, and I think (Insane Ink) gives change to the town and it gives the younger generation opportunities out here as well. It can motivate kids, and with the school he has, it’s opportunities for people out here and just opens your eyes to something new.”

Rick Hansen Q&A

I caught up with Rick Hansen this month during his stop in Regina as part of his Man in Motion 25th Anniversary Tour. A truly inspiring man and a pleasure to interview.