Although some restrictions for non-essential businesses were lifted in May in Winnipeg, Blinkers Art and Project Space delayed reopening until recently, and is now looking to bounce back.
Heat of a Hand, a collaborative exhibition by Winnipeg-based artists Rhayne Vermette, Bret Parenteau and Irene Bindi, is Blinkers’ first exhibit since Susanna Browne’s Love’s Bluest Sorry, which ended on April 12.
Rachael Thorleifson, one of the founders of Blinkers, says that the gallery’s closure with regular programming in the summer felt like a fitting response as society continued to adjust to a post-pandemic life, but now she says that it is ready to open with health protocols in place.
“We are feeling more confident about our opening without having it be something that feels unsafe,” she says.
“So we are going to have masks and (implement social distancing and other health) rules, because I feel that people feel more comfortable participating in things that they know the organizers have considered their safety. These guidelines will be posted on the walls, and hopefully people can feel that their boundaries are going to be respected, and that the organizers have created a safe situation for everybody.”
Started in 2018 along with Kristina Banera, John Patterson and Hannah Doucet as then-recent University of Manitoba graduates, Thorleifson says that after the group visited Vancouver and toured some DIY gallery spaces, they were inspired to create a similar space with a unique perspective for local and national artists.
“We want to showcase artists who are in our immediate area and outside of Winnipeg and from around Canada,” she says.
“It is a passion project for us. We were just excited to see how we can do it and see what we can produce, and when we saw the space (located on 520 Hargrave St.), it was like ‘Here it is!’”
With COVID-19 abruptly affecting the gallery earlier this year, Thorleifson says that though it felt like everything was put on pause and everything would be cancelled for the foreseeable future, this period provided a crucial time for both the gallery and artists like herself to grow and support the community.
“As an artist, I think that there is now this weird moment that, potentially, depending on your circumstances, there is more time suddenly to not only work on your practice and grow your craft, but also to shift focus from not experiencing the social life in the same way, such as having parties and major exhibit openings,” she says.
“A lot of artists during this time shifted their focus to be reframed more around social activism. That is why there are a lot of artists doing work, showing up at protests like the Black Lives Matter protests and Indigenous Lives Matter protests, (and to show our support) we opened our space to organizers and artists from the BIPOC community in July and August.”
Heat of a Hand runs at Blinkers (520 Hargrave St.) until Oct. 11. Social distancing and mask-wearing are mandatory within the gallery, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 6 p.m.