‘Me We Everybody’: These Winnipeg kids are making art that reflects their Canada

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Kids and their art at Art City. (Art City)

Art City, the free, Winnipeg-based, after-school art program that every city wishes it had, is launching their first curated exhibit — “Me We Everybody” — on January 11, 2018 at La Maison des Artistes Visuels Francophones in Winnipeg’s French quarter. The exhibit will feature a selection of artworks — including video art, photography, ceramics and collaborative murals — by the drop-in centre’s youth participants, which represent a snapshot of Canada from the young artists’ perspectives.

Art City is a not-for-profit community art studio that was founded by internationally renowned artist Wanda Coop in 1998. Open to all ages, Art City is a place where anyone can be given the tools, encouragement, supplies and safe environment to experiment with and create art (and even receive a free, healthy meal).

“Winnipeg is known nationally for having the highest rates of child poverty and for having a very thriving art community, so Art City is using one to address the other,” explains Josh Ruth, Art City’s managing director.

While the West Broadway centre — as well as their outreach sites across the city — welcomes people from all walks of life, 98% of participants are between the ages of 6 and 14. 48% of the people who access Art City are Indigenous, and a large portion are newcomer Canadians. While Art City’s participants are a diverse, multicultural group, Ruth explains that this wasn’t necessarily the focus of their programming but came about naturally. “The barriers in the community that tend to divide people don’t exist at Art City. Art is visual language, and language is another barrier that is transcended at Art City.”

In addition to the 25 artists on staff who provide art programming, Art City also invites guest artists — through both a professional artist series and community artist series — to share their art practices at a community level in day- or week-long workshops. Through their outreach programming, they work with groups in other areas of the city that have a need for art programming. At 10 to 13 different sites each week, Art City provides the same artist-run workshops and after-school drop-ins in collaboration with community centres, schools and family resource centres. They’ve also recently started programming for elders. “Older adults are [also] among the most underserved people in the community […] so I think it’s really important to find ways to provide engaging activities for elders and to hear their stories,” says Ruth. Art City is truly the free art programming that every Canadian city — and community — needs.

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