Merasty celebrated in Leaf Rapids

A gathering was held in Leaf Rapids Oct. 1 to commemorate the life of Angus Merasty.

Merasty, an aboriginal artist who passed away July 20, was supposed to have his paintings featured at the Leaf Rapids Exhibition Centre - which itself has a welcoming banner he painted - in October. When he died, it was decided that the centre would go through with the exhibit in Merasty's honour.

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Among the festivities was the unveiling of a rock, painted by Thompson artist Jasyn Lucas, outside Merasty's former home. Earlier this year, Merasty had entered a community-wide rock-painting contest, submitting an unsigned sketch for a rock painting. His sketch won, and it was his design that Lucas used to paint the commemorative rock.

"After that we came back to the exhibition centre," explained Kristy Lepage of the exhibition centre. "A lot of people brought food, it was a public feast." The potluck event drew dozens to remember Merasty.

During the dinner, Dawn Anderson read a letter from Merasty's wife, Angie Beattie, thanking the community for their support. "When Angie's letter was read, there wasn't a dry eye around," said Lepage. "It was a nice way to remember him. It touched everybody."

"A lot of people were really glad that he came down," said Lepage of Lucas. Lepage said Lucas was presented with an honorarium for his work, but he "turned around and donated it to Angie."

The exhibition centre was able to locate 19 of Merasty's paintings, mostly in the Leaf Rapids area, and Lepage expects them to remain on display until mid-November. It was difficult to track down much of his work, as Merasty worked primarily on commission - designing pieces for buyers with specific requirements. 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. Marcia Carroll of Thompson's Precambrian Art Gallery, who has called Merasty "one of the best artists to ever come through here," 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.

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