Sheila McKinnon (second from left) is presented with a roadrunner sculpture, created by the late Arnold Mikelson, by Surrey arts department employees Liane Davison, Todd Ayotte and Kent Gallie. (Rick Chapman/City of Surrey)

Surrey’s longtime arts manager retires, but not before pitching her dream arts projects for the next decade

Sheila McKinnon ‘found a way to make things happen here in Surrey’

A two-decade run with Surrey’s arts department has drawn to a close for Sheila McKinnon, who is retiring as the city’s arts manager.

The Ontario native has been part of, or orchestrated, a number of big arts-related projects during her time here, including the expansion of Surrey Arts Centre in 2002, the significant growth of the city’s public art program in recent years, the designation of Surrey as Canada’s Cultural Capital for 2008.

“She has found a way to make things happen here in Surrey,” Councillor Judy Villeneuve said during a retirement dinner for McKinnon on May 15.

The $30-per-ticket event, held at Surrey Arts Centre’s Studio Theatre, drew close to 100 people – a who’s who of the city’s arts scene, really, including several winners of the Civic Treasures award, established in 2008 with McKinnon’s guidance.

Villeneuve, chair of Surrey’s Public Art Advisory Committee, described McKinnon as visionary, a fun-maker.

During a slide show, McKinnon revealed some of her favourite events that took place at the arts centre over the years, including a concert by The Canadian Tenors, the theatre show Mom’s the Word, Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet audio exhibit and Surrey International Children’s Festival (which gets going for another year on Thursday, May 25), among others.

“I know that the great theatre events, thought-provoking exhibitions, stunning public art installations and wonderful events will continue,” McKinnon said.

Looking ahead, she said she hoped the next 10-year plan for the arts in Surrey will invest heavily in three things: the city’s Cultural Grants program, additional space for artists to create, and the creation of a public art program for Surrey’s new LRT system.