Founding Father: LaVerne Erickson

April 19, 2017

This week we talk with local phenomenon and founder, LaVerne Erickson.  LaVerne and his wife, Arlene live in Rosebud, Alberta, where LaVerne founded Rosebud School of the Arts and Rosebud Theatre. He also founded The Canadian Badlands Passion Play in Drumheller, the Canadian Badlands Performing Arts Summer School, and Chemainus Theatre Festival on Vancouver Island. He coined the name “Canadian Badlands” which has become an international tourism icon. In 2010, he was appointed Alberta Tourism Ambassador. He has been awarded honors in the fields of economic development and tourism, culture and arts, and was given a Legacy award as one of Alberta’s 100 outstanding citizens. As an educator he has taught at the elementary, secondary, college and university levels. As a planner he was worked with communities across Western Canada. As an artist, he has composed a great deal of choral music and his paintings hang in public and private collections. LaVerne is an artist, entrepreneur, and visionary, inspired by his love for God and people. In retirement he serves on the boards of a variety of organizations, champions rural development, and loves spending time with his grandchildren.

Where did you grow up?

I was born into the homesteading community of North Star, Alberta, one hour north of Peace River. My childhood memories of homesteading life probably played an important role in my development. Then I lived in Edmonton, Rosebud, Lethbridge, Calgary, and returned to Rosebud in 1973.

Were your parents artistic?

My mother was a piano teacher and my father was a pastor who enjoyed woodworking and creating.

What’s your must-have morning ritual?

Morning prayer, scripture reading, and communion.

You’re an ideas man… with the rare ability to execute your visions. Where do these ideas come from and how do you know when you’re really on to something?

My ideas can be categorized as conceptual analysis, problem solving, perceived opportunities, and inspiration. An idea that is a mixture of the foregoing and is welcomed by people with whom I am in conversation gets explored further. Social interaction is often the matrix for the growth of something important.

You’re also a bit of a Renaissance man… and obviously have a passion for the arts. Do you have a favorite artistic expression?

Philosophy is my favorite discipline and aesthetics inform my enjoyment of all art forms.

LaVerne Erickson and his brother, Tim. Rosebud, 1982. Photo courtesy Harry Palmer.

When you dreamed about what Rosebud could be, what did you see?

A rose is God’s botanical love song, abounding in beauty, too soon fading, forever treasured. Its bud holds all the potential of the rose, protected by mothering thorns, rooted in the good earth and nurtured by spring. So it is with this little place called Rosebud. Rosebud mothered native civilizations, provided a community home for settlers, ranchers, farmers, dreamers, captured the imagination of Canada’s Group of Seven, and people of heart. I saw the nurturing potential of Rosebud that could blossom under the loving care of artistic gardeners and waft its fragrance on the wind.

Why Rosebud "Theatre", specifically?

My desire for Rosebud Theatre is for it to tell stories of significance that touch the heart.

Storytelling, like the rose, is woven into our human existence. Stories have been told for thousands of years at campfires in the Rosebud Valley. Theatre is Rosebud’s modern campfire for storytelling.

Why a tiny village in the middle of the prairie?

Rosebud requires one to intentionally travel far into the country to see this bud that blossoms anew every year.

Photo courtesy Bonita Hudson.

What’s something the Rosebud community might not know about you?

My introduction to Alberta political life was through Preston Manning’s invitations to sit with him in the Speaker’s Gallery at the Alberta Legislature while his father was premier.

What’s something people might not know about Rosebud?

The first staff members had to commit to three years of service and pay a deposit $3,000 to the staff association. The early staff shared much in common, including meals.

Is there a particular Rosebud production that has resonated with you over the years?

An Inspector Calls continues to strike me as an important social narrative.

You saw Rosebud Theatre’s latest production, ‘The Skin of Our Teeth’, on opening night. Was there a particular moment that that spoke to you?

I was struck not with a particular moment but with its many relevant insights into contemporary society. It was like watching a Far Side comic that continually delivered punch lines. I think this is one of the most important plays that Rosebud Theatre has presented. Its humour and poignancy are arresting.

LaVerne Erickson, center right, with the cast of The Skin of Our Teeth.

Founding Father: LaVerne Erickson

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