There was a special presentation during the opening ceremony for the Southeast Open Judged Exhibit and most people had no idea it was going to take place. 

David Klassen, Executive Director at Steinbach Arts council, was shocked and speechless Friday night when Mayor Earl Funk strayed from his usual mayoral remarks during the opening ceremony, surprising Klassen with a medal in honour of his dedication and contribution to the community. 

“To be recognized for the work you do for the community is never expected,” Klassen says. “So obviously a surprise. I accept that recognition humbly, because the work that I do is really focused on building the community around me. So yes, a surprise. Can I comprehend it? I never think I deserve it. But it is a real honor.” 

Although he may not think himself deserving of this recognition, Mayor Funk has no doubt that Klassen has done a lot to make Steinbach a better place. 

“He is very deserving of this recognition for what he all does in the community, and how he draws, like I said in my comments, how he draws the best out of people,” Funk says. “He has so much influence, especially in our youth. They come into this center, and he gets to influence them and pull their gift out of them and help develop it.” 

Funk says Klassen’s influence will be felt in our community for many decades to come. 

“And that's why I feel that he deserves to have this recognition. I believe he's doing a great job. The reason council got these medallions made is to recognize people that go over and above in their regular day to make Steinbach a better place,” Funk says. 

Klassen is passionate about the work he does, and his enthusiasm is contagious. What motivates him to keep going each day? 

“Artists need a place to exist,” he says. “I have told the story many times. I tried many forms of recreation. I tried every sport that was available to me growing up and I enjoyed it, but it didn't spark life in me, until I found music in junior high and high school. That's where I felt I connected with people who had common interests and who could really build me up. 

“So, if I can create an opportunity for others in the community to have that experience, to be built up and to be nurtured through a form of recreation that they connect with, then I feel that it's my responsibility to do so. And the work I do brings me much joy, every day of my life. I love coming to work every day and making sure that people have a home, that people have a place to belong, and they can thrive in the areas that that they are gifted in, as well as build all of those skills that we talk about building for young people, dedication, work ethic, commitment, critical thinking, creative thinking. It is what carries people into their professions and into the rest of their lives if it is not in the area of professional arts or professional sports. This is my chance to help build those skills for the community.” 

Klassen credits his staff team for believing in his vision and desire for the community. 

“I have an amazing team. They have bought into my own vision, which is bigger, better, more diverse, a more expansive place to feel belonging. Every day in our work, we see a need or find a need, or we experience an opportunity to build or to grow. And the team around me is fearless enough that they will try just about anything, and I encourage them to work with that mentality.” 

He says they are always looking for ways to include more people. 

“Many people don't realize it, but there are things in the center that would interest them, or that they would connect to, and we want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to discover those things every day.”