Saker Senaratne said when she began volunteering with the Surrey Art Gallery nearly three decades ago, she just wanted to be a part of the community.
Senaratne, 82, recently received the Shakti Award for Community Service.
“I was very excited, but I was surprised too,” said Senaratne of the art gallery nominating her for the award.
When Senaratne started volunteering all those years ago, she said it wasn’t her goal to stay for 30 years, “but I always wanted to.”
“That’s the place I wanted to be, always. I felt I just wanted to go on. No, I never thought I would stop unless something happens.”
Senaratne said she began volunteering as a way to be part of the community.
“I like to be part of the community and to give back a little bit of my time,” she said. “I’m interested in art, so I thought it would be good to volunteer at the Surrey Art Centre at the art gallery.”
Senaratne moved to Canada in 1975 after living in England where she said she was exposed to museums and galleries. She also studied fashion design at the London College of Fashion.
“I had done art and art history, as well. So, therefore, I was always interested in art and always liked to be connected (to art),” she said.
“I was always interested in (fashion design) as well, making clothes and all that. Always, always, from the very beginning when I was young.”
With her interest in fashion, Senaratne said one of her favourite exhibitions was the “Art of the Sari” exhibition in 2007.
“That was great, of course. There has been so many, it’s hard to even remember.”
Over the years, Senaratne said, she has learned “so much” as the exhibitions change “quite often.”
“We meet the artists and the educators and also the curators and learn so much from those exhibitions.”
While Senaratne is learning herself, as a docent at the gallery, a post from the Surrey Art Gallery congratulating Senaratne on her work says she has “toured with 20,000 children through various exhibitions.”
Senaratne said she has really enjoyed working with children over the years because she is “getting them interested in art.”
“There are so many different ways of looking at art, as well. They can learn how to look at the art as well.”
Asked how much longer she plans to volunteer at the Surrey Art Gallery, Senaratne said, “As long as I can. I enjoy it.”
“One thing I say for anybody to all the volunteers, to all new people, young people, to join the art gallery and be part of volunteering because it’s so much of learning,” she said. “Over the years, I have learned so much. It is not just giving your time, but it is also lots of your own development and lots of learning and also building friendships with the people as well.
“It’s a valuable experience to have.”