Art beyond the perimeter

Manitoba Arts Network provides a big city venue for rural and northern artists

The metropolitan nature of the art establishment has always made it difficult for artists outside major cities to showcase their work. The 12th Annual Rural & Northern Art Show, put on by the Manitoba Arts Network (MAN), gives artists from outside Manitoba’s biggest cities a rare opportunity to exhibit their creations to a larger audience.

“There are a lot of barriers and challenges for the rural arts community to have their work seen,” explains Alix Reynolds, MAN’s marketing and visual arts coordinator. “A lot of them are very isolated in their communities. It takes a lot more time and resources to get your work shown and have the same kind of visibility that’s a lot easier for urban artists to access.”

For over 25 years, it has been MAN’s mission to level the playing field and promote art from all over our province.

The works in the show come from various parts of Manitoba. Juries of artists evaluate regional art shows across the province, selecting the top works from each to be featured in the Winnipeg show. Many of the works are for sale, giving collectors a chance to discover art they may not otherwise be exposed to.

“It gives Winnipeggers an opportunity to go outside their bubble, without having to actually go outside their bubble,” Reynolds says. “It exposes them to some of the best rural artists in the province. It lets folks here see the extent of the quality that’s being produced beyond the perimeter.”

The artists featured in the show are set apart by more than their geographical location. In her artist’s statement, featured artist Teresa Burrows discusses blue beaver’s burden and the disappearance of the shaking tent sisters, her moving, confrontational series exploring the subject of murdered and missing aboriginal women in Manitoba.

“I looked at the strength and power of women who come through the darkness and, like the caribou in their migration north, bring the light back in their antlers,” she writes in the statement.

Burrows’s work stresses the importance of recognizing victims, confronting systematic abuse in Manitoba’s northern community, and engendering respect for all women and the LGBTQ population. Her background as an activist, probation officer, addictions counsellor, mother and survivor of abuse is just one of the many unique artistic perspectives emerging from Manitoba’s rural and northern communities.

“There are different stories being told here,” Reynolds says. “Artwork, in general, is often inspired by the environment that the artist lives in. There are differences not just between urban and rural areas, but between the various regions (throughout Manitoba) as well. I’m sure you can imagine the differences between the environment up north and the environment in southern Manitoba, for example. That, of course, has a huge influence. You’ll be seeing different imagery and different art than you’d see from just one region.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 3, 2014)

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