Roger Ing and the New Utopia

As I mentioned on Tuesday, two years ago Roger Ing, an artist and the proprietor of the former New Utopia Cafe, passed away.

While I have only scratched the surface of what there is to know, I have gathered some resources and a few stories about Roger and the New Utopia.

I stumbled across this short overview of what Roger contributed to Regina’s cultural scene in a write-up about Judith Silverthorne’s documentary “Roger Ing’s Utopia”:

Enter the eclectic world of Roger Ing, a prolific Canadian artist, philanthropist, and former owner/operator of the New Utopia Café in Regina, a place where magical moments happened and a legend was created.

Immigrating to Saskatchewan from rural China in 1950, Roger brought with him early training in classical Chinese painting. His love of art continued in his new country as he embraced all kinds of new traditions and made them his own, while operating his restaurant for a living…Artists such as Joe Fafard, Arthur McKay, Edward Poitras and Jack Severson share their memories of the New Utopia, called by many “the most important cultural institution in the city,”

There is no doubt that Roger Ing was a colourful character who left a bold mark on Regina.  He was passionate about making art and over the years he developed a unique style referred to as Rogerism – a fusion of traditional chinese and modernist painting.

In my search I also found this short silent film that features Roger at the Utopia (he appears at the beginning).

While the restaurant was eventually closed by the City of Regina Health Department (you can see from the photos that Roger displayed his work, and painted, everywhere… even the kitchen), the New Utopia left a strong impression during the 23 years it was open.

Here are a few paraphrased memories that I’ve collected after talking with friends and family:

“Roger Ing was a very eccentric character… even if you had never been to the Cafe you knew who he was”

“I remember it being the only place that proudly displayed a “B” level health rating”

“The one time my dad took me there I got french fries and chocolate milk… I really wanted the Super Grover statue that was on display near the entrance”

“I liked that paintings were everywhere – it was a great place to grab a coffee and chat with friends”

I hope to keep collecting people’s thoughts both about Roger and the New Utopia.  Feel free to leave your favourite anecdotes in the comments section.

** All photos, respectfully borrowed from the Utopia Cafe facebook page.

Roger Ing and the New Utopia

2 thoughts on “Roger Ing and the New Utopia

  1. Appreciated reading your post on Roger Ing. I feel I am fortunate to have 2 pieces of his artwork. At some point in the next few years it would be great to see someone put together a exhibition of his work. It is great to see there is still interest in his art…

    1. Gord – I totally agree that it would be nice to see his work displayed again. In particular I would like to see a show that has his work alongside pieces from other artists doing similar things at time, or pieces that showcase where modernism was before, during, and after his time.

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