Leaf Rapids exhibit to honour deceased aboriginal artist Angus Merasty

"The show must go on" is usually a cliché these days, but it certainly applies to an upcoming art exhibit at the Leaf Rapids Exhibition Centre.

An exhibit featuring the works of aboriginal painter Angus Merasty was slated for this October at the exhibition centre, and even though Merasty passed away in a Winnipeg hospital July 20, his art will still be on display this fall - though now to commemorate his memory.

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"We're still going to go through with this exhibit," says Christie Lepage of the exhibition centre - where a welcoming banner sign was painted by Merasty. Additional events are now being planned for the month of October, including a celebratory feast, as Merasty's body was not made available for viewing in Leaf Rapids. "The community needs some sort of closure," Lepage explained.

However, Lepage is looking to the public for help in finding as many of Merasty's works as possible to display at the exhibit. According to Marcia Carroll, owner of the Precambrian Art Gallery in Thompson, Merasty worked primarily on commission - designing pieces for buyers with specific requirements. Lepage hopes that some of these buyers will come forward and lend her whatever they may have for the month of October so it can be displayed with the rest of his exhibit.

Merasty is still making waves in the Leaf Rapids art scene even after his death. "The town has rock paintings going on," said Lepage. There was a competition this summer for Leaf Rapids residents to paint whatever they wished on large rocks. Merasty painted one of the rocks and left it unsigned - his rock would later be chosen as one of the winners. Thompson artist Jasyn Lucas has been selected to copy Merasty's design onto a memorial rock, which will be unveiled October 1, the same day the exhibit starts at the exhibition centre.

"I think he was one of the most talented artists to ever come through here," said Carroll, who remembers one particular painting of a wolf as particularly exceptional - but as it was a commissioned piece, she has no idea where it ended up. In 2001, Merasty painted a banner sign for the Native Addictions Council of Manitoba office in Winnipeg, depicting an eagle flying through the sky.

Originally from the Brochet area, Merasty and his wife moved back and forth between Thompson and Leaf Rapids in later years, but they settled in Leaf Rapids in 2009. Carroll recalls that though Merasty would have loved to have made a living solely off his art, he was always working another job, including stints at Canadian Tire and the Thompson Homeless Shelter.

Lepage is also hoping to find photographs of Mersaty to display, though she's unsure if any were ever taken and is appealing for the public's assistance.

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