Favourite local gallery or artist-run centre

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Favourite local gallery or artist-run centre

1. Winnipeg Art Gallery
2. MAWA / aceart inc. (tie)

In the 30 years since MAWA’s (Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art) inception, the artist-run centre has equipped hundreds of women and non-binary folx to create and maintain a professional arts practice. 

“MAWA’s culture of generosity is very welcoming and positive in our community,” Shawna Dempsey, co-director of MAWA says. “It is an intergenerational community that is based on sharing skills, networks and information.”

Through mentorships, arts education and residencies, MAWA works through an intersectional feminist lens to combat gender inequality in the visual-art world, which Dempsy says is an ongoing problem, “particularly in tenured positions in university art schools and directorships of the largest galleries, the sale of artworks at the highest level of the art market.” 

“Those are still areas where women are still underrepresented and not paid equally. MAWA continues to fight the good fight with respect to gender inequality and works to support all gender minorities, so cis and trans women and non-binary folx.”

During her tenure, the project that made Dempsey the most proud is the Resilience project, which was curated by Lee-Ann Martin, a Mohawk curator. Fifty Indigenous women’s artworks were displayed across the country on billboards. MAWA also created a teaching guide for classrooms on how to use the images in all subject areas, in kindergarten through Grade 12 classrooms, to explore Indigenous themes, knowledge and contemporary realities. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have switched lots of their programming online and eliminated the cost component. MAWA has also been running a new program designed for an online format, including a discussion group on critical painting perspectives led by Laura Darnbrough. 

Their pandemic-specific micro-grant program has just opened its third call for submissions. “We know that individual artists are struggling, and so many people have lost opportunities and gigs,” Dempsey says. 

Even through a pandemic, MAWA continues to empower and equip women and their art, even if their doors are closed. 

Editorial note: MAWA tied with aceartinc. in this category. Since we profiled aceartinc. last year, we’re giving the spotlight to MAWA in 2020.

Published in Volume 75, Number 12 of The Uniter (December 2, 2020)

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