It’s the middle of September, and I’m bundling together a few warm layers, my windbreaker and tent, and my fuzziest sleeping socks to attend the Harvest Moon Festival. After a long ride through the rolling hills of the Pembina Valley, I throw down my heavy bags and begin to set up my tent in the field behind the Clearwater Memorial Hall. It’s drizzling, and it’s not about to stop. The rainy weekend has me huddled next to roaring outdoor fires, sipping whiskey out of thermoses passed along by friends, taking cover in the dry arena and community centre, and dancing my socks off in a throng of other warm bodies.
For many, Harvest Moon means what it meant to me, camping out in Clearwater with friends, listening to live music, maybe eating a fried perogy sold right on the dance floor. But the festival is just one branch of a much larger organization. The Harvest Moon Society also connects local farmers to urban communities through the Local Food Initiative, offers sustainability and agriculture workshops during the festival and throughout the year, coordinates programming for youth, and hosts students from the University of Manitoba all through the Harvest Moon Learning Centre. In part, the festival serves as a fundraiser for these activities.
Outgoing president of the Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative, Lisa Clouston, explains that the Initiative connects “Manitoba farmers to eaters in urban Manitoba who want to support local food producers.” Currently, they’re working with over a dozen local farms to source products like pastured chicken, pork, goat, lamb and beef, raw honey, grains, and organic vegetables.Read More
A handful of massive murals went up around downtown last week as part of the Wall-to-Wall Mural & Culture Festival thrown by Synonym Art Consultation. More specifically, along the north side of the New West Hotel and across a grassy vacant lot on the south side of the Medi-care Pharmacy on Main Street, four technicolour animals now stare each other in the eyes.
The piece is the work of artists Jessica Canard, Siyee Man, Joseph Pilapil, Pat Lazo, and Gabrielle Funk, and draws its inspiration form the four weeks they spent teaching street art to the young people of Studio 393, a youth-led arts studio for emerging artists by Graffiti Art Programming Inc.
The street-art workshops were balanced by activism workshops, where the teens “had discussions on the issues they were passionate about. We were just teaching them style; the content of the art they made was based on what they wanted to do. From that, we got the idea for the need to be unified together and to live positively,” says Siyee.
Gabrielle adds, “We’ve all been building up the inspiration and prepping for this since mid-July. We started meeting to talk about the ideas in August. It’s been a really integrated, long, multi-faceted process.”
Last Friday, I had the chance to sit down with Gabrielle, Siyee, and Pat to chat more about their work on the mural. They’ve been putting in long, hard days, with different artists coming in at different hours. I catch them on a quick break before they have to head off to grab the lunch provided to artists and volunteers.Read More
On Saturday, September 30th, from 7pm-2am, Black Space Winnipeg will be putting on their second instalment of Nuit Noire in partnership with aceartinc., located on the second floor of 290 McDermot Avenue. Nuit Noire was founded out of “the need to diversify ... [and highlight] community voices,” and this year’s Nuit Noire, entitled Illuminate Our Voices, showcases Afrocentric visual and performance art.
This past week, I sat down with Nuit Noire artists Edmund Machona and dione c. haynes to discuss their perspectives and development as spoken-word performers.Read More
I’ve just taken up a perch at the bar when rap artist and activist Vigdís Ósk Howser walks through the door. She’s on time, and I’m a bit relieved. Reykjavík’s Culture Night just wrapped, and she’s been partying most of the weekend. Earlier in the day, she overslept and missed our first meeting. I’m not particularly mad about it because Cafe Vinyl, the spot she originally suggested for our interview, is a cool place and the first good coffee I’ve drank in Reykjavík. Besides, I’ve been there. Sober-self overestimates hunger-over-self’s ability to get out of bed and through the door in the morning.
Now, we’re sitting in Prikið, billed as Iceland’s oldest bar, and home to breakfasting tourists in the mornings, locals dancing on the bar during punk shows at night, and even the occasional screening of an experimental film. Vigdís is a regular. She carries a card that gets her — and luckily me — a discount. In scenes from Vigdís’ latest music video, “Reyndo Bara,” you can spot Prikið’s hanging pot lights swinging around her head. One of the servers comes over for a quick chat in Icelandic during the course of our interview, stealing a few fries from our plate as she leaves.
Vigdís and I are fast friends. Our interview ends with a hug and a standing offer to swing by Vesturbæjarlaug the next day, the public swimming pool where she works part time. Instead, I spend most of the next afternoon somewhat guiltily lying around my hotel room, then spending my last krónas on a glass of red wine at a swanky French restaurant, but I figure Vigdís understands.Read More
I’ve nursed a bit of a mom-prejudice.
I got married at twenty one. Nobody stopped me from doing such a wreckless, ill-advised thing because I have an iron will, and I was raised Mennonite. But the thing a lot of people took issue with was the decision my partner and I made not to have children. You can only hear so many aunts tell you, “You’ll change your mind when you’re older,” or sit through so many conversations about the colour and consistency of the shit belonging to a tiny human you did not give birth to, or see the disappointed eyes of complete strangers after you give them the answer they didn’t want to hear to a question they shouldn’t have asked anyway. I used to dream up complex answers about a bomb going off in my uterus.
Two things pulled me out of that prejudice. I’m not going to pretend I’m over it entirely; the language and tone of the paragraph you just read gives me away anyway, but I’m coming around. The first thing was aging nine years and realizing I could stop defining myself against other people. The second was reading the perspectives of moms like Andrea Mclaren. Andrea’s been posting images and words about her daughter Willa to Instagram for more than four years now, and the way she depicts her daughter and her experience of motherhood lets me glimpse a realm I had never considered before. On June 17th, Willa pops up on my Instagram feed standing among rocks, water, and brush, holding a pair of daisies in front of her eyes. Below, Andrea writes,
Lisa Kehler Art + Projects, the gallery space formerly housed in Forth's basement next to the bar, is in a period of transition. On June 30th, director Lisa Kehler hosted a small closing party, then proceeded to pack up and take down the very last show. After two years in the space, Lisa’s decided that the traditional gallery model just isn’t working for her and Winnipeg. Instead, LKAP will be throwing limited run pop-up shows that, according to Lisa, “are going to mark a shift in collaborating more with people, combining food, art, and music.” The first of these events is a Two Six art club reunion show with artists Ian August, Shaun Morin, Melanie Rocan, Cyrus Smith, Fred Thomas, and David Wityk at the Graffiti Gallery, cheekily titled Aiming Too High. It opens Thursday, August 17th.
Lisa was kind enough to invite me down to document the last days spent packing up and closing down the gallery space, with help from her son Oliver. We sat down to chat more about LKAP’s evolution.
FULL: So tell me a little more about what’s next for Lisa Kehler Art + Projects.
Lisa Kehler: The gallery is going to continue on, just not as a traditional gallery space. It’s going to be more responsive to the market and what I’ve seen over the last few years of running LKAP, and Actual Gallery before that. I have realised that people seem to respond to a shorter timeline. You look at events like Third + Bird, Lucky Girl Pop Up, or RAW Almond, all have very limited timelines but have grown significant audiences. This is not necessarily the model of the gallery – to be a pop up – but to be more nomadic, more responsive to what I see as the next wave of galleries.
A lot of the time and resources have been spent managing a physical space where I’m in charge of it’s upkeep, holding regular hours, big insurance costs and so on. I’d have these amazing, well-attended opening parties, and then nobody really came in afterwards. I deal a lot in markets outside of Winnipeg, so for me to be going to art fairs, I can’t have regular gallery hours, or I incur another cost of having to hire someone to look after the space. Changing the way I run LKAP is going to allow me to be a little bit more responsive and reactive to what I’ve seen happening here. Rather than doing the regular admin of having this space, I can focus more on the big picture; putting together proposals for corporations, trying to help other people start up corporate or personal collections, and travelling more. That’s the next focus of LKAP.
FULL: You don’t see many small, independently-owned galleries in Winnipeg, so it seems smart that you’re putting in the work to adapt.
LK: It’s been a real tough go. And I don’t think I really understood how tough it was going to be. I had a very specific outline of things I wanted to accomplish, with outreach to a very particular audience. I had people lined up to help, and then with all of the construction issues in the building, the first year was almost a write-off. The shows were fantastic, but the inability to maintain open hours resulted in very few opportunities for people to see the work. I had dinners lined up with people who had committed to hosting tables, bringing in an audience that I wasn’t familiar with, but construction interfered with that.
And being the type of person that I am, had a couple run-ins with reviewers. Somebody gave a really negative and hurtful review to one of the artists, and people were coming in saying, “Woah, did you see that review?” It became this huge thing. I felt like as the person who hosted that show, it was my responsibility to contact the reviewer. I wrote them and expressed my concerns over the language that was used. That resulted in me never having another review in that paper. That was unfortunate. The artist was grateful that I stood up for him, so I feel good about that. I would do it the same again. I’ve never been that person who pretends to like you if I don’t. That may not be the best in business, but then people always know where I stand.
After that happened, I feel like I really retreated from the local art community. I had serious anxiety, and felt like I didn‘t belong anymore. I didn’t have what so many other dealers in other places have – a community of other dealers. I found my focus shifted, and I began to really start to try to build stronger relationships outside of Winnipeg. Someone told me the other day that they believed I didn’t support the community here in Winnipeg because I never go out to openings. That shook me. Here I am representing more than twenty artists from Winnipeg, putting on shows, taking their work to international fairs, promoting them at every turn. It’s interesting to me what people consider support, and it’s been pretty eye-opening.
It’s been challenging, and I think maybe things could have gone a little more smoothly. That first year was so intense. With all of the construction, I would have to cancel shows last minute. I feel like in that first year I did about three years worth of work. I’m not looking at it as a failure, just let’s go on to phase two now. I still think that there’s a way to put on shows in Winnipeg, to sell work, to slowly create a market here where people are excited to collect.
FULL: You bring in art that I don’t see in a lot of other places. Consistently your shows are interesting and take risks.
LK: Thank you. That’s something I’ve tried to focus on. A gallery is as much the vision of its director as it is the artist. That’s part of what takes so long; people need to grow to trust the person who’s running the gallery — their vision, that they’re seeking out the artists with a career ahead of them. I’m going to keep pushing to bring in artists who are more self-taught outsiders. I love art, and I love artists. I want to figure out a way to help artists I believe in to continue doing what they need to do. I put my heart and soul into this venture, and I’m ready to continue doing that, but in a different style. I am excited and optimistic.
I’m in the back seat of a yellow school bus crammed with Folk Fest attendees, listening to podcasts on my phone before a day of listening to music. The air is warm and close and smells of sunscreen, hot pavement, and the exhaust of city traffic. We pull out onto the highway, and Esther Perel’s voice is in my ears as the trees rush past.
The bus eases up to the shuttle stop and everyone squeezes out, mini-coolers, camping chairs, and bags in tow. It’s hot, high noon. Beads of sweat begin collecting on my lower back and upper lip as I stroll past campers and attendees in various states of dress and undress toward the festival entrance.
I spend two days at the Winnipeg Folk Festival — lying in the sun listening to music, strolling around the grounds and running into pals from the city, hiding behind my camera, eating perogies and popsicles in the shade, conducting interviews — and what I’m most struck by is how peacefully everything coexists. Kids tear around, playing games of their own invention, folks doze lazily in the shade while others tear it up on their own private dance floor, volunteers bustle around mid-task. Sitting quietly in the Shady Grove, I overhear a guy describe to his friends the specific cocktail of drugs, alcohol, and water that take him through the night and into the next day. He calls this time of year a fresh start, “like a rebirth.” A few feet away friends take selfies with echoes of “That’s cute.” A couple blankets over, a child with a dragonfly painted across her face dozes on her dad’s shoulder. Somehow it all just hangs together.Read More
Sarah Anne Johnson greets me at back door to the building that houses her studio in the West Exchange. We climb the stairs, chatting about our weeks and the artist talk at the old Globe Cinema she plans to attend after our interview. We enter the studio, and Sarah shows me around. On one side, large photographs taken at music festivals hang over tables of paints and other supplies. On the other, Sarah’s constructed a large cave with the help of her assistant as a continuation of her project House on Fire. A large handmade dummy rests on a table off to the side. Sarah props him up and tells me she’s had a difficult time trying to source fake eye balls. The last ones she ordered were pricey and they still don’t look real enough.
Since 2008, Sarah has been making work about her grandmother, Velma Orlikow, who was one of Doctor Cameron’s patients in the MKUltra experiments during the mid-1950’s. As treatment for postnatal depression, Velma underwent electroshock therapy, injections of LSD, and medically-induced sleep. Later, it was discovered that the entire project had been covertly funded by the CIA, and was part of an ongoing investigation into methods of interrogation and torture.
House on Fire in 2009 was Sarah’s first body of work about her grandmother’s experiences. The show included family photographs, newspaper clippings, bronze figurines and a surreal dollhouse. Since then, Sarah’s been constructing life-size replicas of each room in the dollhouse, making video, and sometimes reconstructing and displaying the models in galleries, putting on live performances inside them. The first was Hospital Hallway in 2015, followed by The Kitchen in 2016. Now she’s working on The Cave, a reconstruction of a room in the centre of the House on Fire with no windows or doors, where two figures dance. One of Sarah’s current projects is shooting a video in the cave, where she plays her grandmother, dancing with the dummy whose eyeballs aren’t right yet.
Returning to the other side of the studio, away from the cave and tables strewn with limbs and partial constructions of human figures, feels instantly cheerier. The walls are a brilliant white and photographs beckon with colour. Sarah likes to joke that, “If someone didn’t know that this was all one artist, they’d think it was two separate artists that didn’t even like each other or respect each other’s work.”
We sit down in two comfortably worn second-hand chairs and begin talking more about Sarah’s projects.Read More