Yvonne Dixon a driving force in Fort St. John arts development

Yvonne Dixon arrived in Fort St. John in 1957 and joined in with the local community by becoming an active member of a local theatre group attached to the Anglican Church. Returning to Fort St. John in 1967, after three years in Montreal with husband Dr. Keith Dixon and family, she became a driving force in the development of arts and culture in Fort St. John right up to the time she and her husband moved away in 1992.

Pottery seemed to be the art form that drew Vonnie into the Community Arts Council. Vonnie and Heather Hannaford maintained the pottery studio and conducted workshops, first in Taylor, and then in a small room designated for pottery in the Fort St. John hockey arena. They established the Pottery Show and Sale in the lobby of the City Hall and partnered with the Art Group for Spring and Fall sales for many years.

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Records show that Vonnie organized the Arts Fair in 1974, which became an annual event of the Arts Council. She was instrumental in developing the Concert Series which continues to this day surviving various reincarnations over the past 45 years. As a member of the Music Committee, she helped get a Canada Council Grant for the first Community Musician. Along with a strong contingent of arts advocates, Vonnie helped to establish the commitment from the City Council for financial support for arts and cultural groups. The first $5,000 was shared among the Workshop Players, Music Teachers, Pipe Band, Art Group, Concert Committee, Historical Society, Friendship Centre, Northside School and Festival Association.

As a visionary, Vonnie was tuned into the political trends in the 1970s of the increasing support for community arts thoughout the province. She brought to the attention of the Arts Council new granting opportunities and initiated correspondence to clarify and further strengthen financial support for arts in remote communities. Driving for more educational and professional opportunities for the community in music, visual art, and drama. Vonnie was part of the support for the Community College Fine Art Program.

Vonnie’s longest standing commitment to arts in Fort St. John was to the development of a cultural centre beginning in 1975. Vonnie was a founding member of the Community Centre Committee formed to establish a theatre and new public library in Fort St. John. She worked diligently to prepare plans and promotions to convince North Peace residents of the need for a proper theatre and a new public library for Fort St. John. When two referendums in 1980 failed to get the required votes for this facility to be located across from the Totem Mall, she continued working with the Community Centre Committee in revising the design and expanding the scope of the project.

In 1992, the North Peace Cultural Centre was opened after years of grant writing, fundraising, political negotiations, and public promotion about the importance of arts and culture in the North Peace. Vonnie was one of the five determined people along with Bob Bennetts, Heather Hannaford, Tony Atkins, and Tony Brummet, who initiated the concept 25 years before and followed through to the completion of the $4.5-million North Peace Cultural Centre.

Ever gracious, but tenacious and forthright, Vonnie Dixon left a legacy in the community with arts and culture which makes Fort St. John a better place to live. The North Peace Cultural Centre, in the heart of Fort St. John, is a hub of arts activity providing creative opportunities, staging entertaining events, and welcoming new comers to the community.

Thank you Vonnie Dixon.

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