A spirited conversation

Art Talk’s new moderators offer fresh perspectives

Sarah Hodges-Kolisnyk (pictured) and J.A. Süss are the new moderators of First Fridays in the Exchange’s Art Talk series. (Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black)

It’s a Winnipeg tradition that on the first Friday of the month, art enthusiasts of all stripes gather in the historic Exchange District to pop into warehouse studios, drink merlot from plastic chalices and converse about local artworks. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted First Fridays in the Exchange, local art-markers continue to find ways to (virtually) bring the joy of art to the public.

Returning for the fall season, Art Talk, a staple of First Fridays in the Exchange, encourages cross-discipline conversations about art by welcoming artists from a variety of backgrounds and mediums.

After arts writer Alison Gillmor moved on from her role as an Art Talk moderator, the program sought new perspectives to take on the position. The newly appointed moderators, Sarah Hodges-Kolisnyk and J.A. Süss, come from different artistic backgrounds. Hodges-Kolisnyk has past and present lives as a photographer, curator and educator, while Süss’ work is primarily music-based.

Süss comes to the moderating role as a long-time admirer and frequenter of the Art Talk series at First Fridays. Their first encounter, by way of being invited by one of the guest artists, opened their eyes to the power of interdisciplinary artistic conversation.

“I thought it was really fun to get a chance years later to facilitate public curiosity about artists, about art, about language (and) about art-making,” Süss says.

In the spirit of hosting a diversity of artistic perspectives, the guests at the Nov. 5 talk include musician Jorge Requena Ramos of Mariachi Ghost, art historian Dr. Serena Keshavjee and visual artist Paul Robles.

When pondering the theme, Hodges-Kolisnyk says the event’s date, housed between Halloween and the Day of the Dead, emerged as a “catalyst for thinking about the ghosts and the dark side of art,” while also touching on themes of mourning, grief and connection to spiritual realms. From there, the theme “Spirit as Art” surfaced.

“This time of year is special and important to a lot of different traditions, so it’s important to observe that and acknowledge that,” Süss says.

Creating a forum to hold open, interdisciplinary conversations about art is a key mandate of the Art Talk program. At the same time, Hodges-Kolisnyk says it’s equally important that they are free and accessible to the public.

“I see arts as storytelling and ways that we can explore together, heal together and grow together,” Hodges-Kolisnyk says. “I’m really interested in connecting with new audiences who might not have had art experiences like this before and finding ways that we can use arts as storytelling and connect over amazing art and artists here in the city.”

By February 2022, Süss says the moderators are anticipating holding Art Talks in person, if the state of the pandemic allows.

“We’re looking forward to getting to be in person and to fulfill the mandate of the First Fridays: to introduce people to the Exchange District,” they say.

The upcoming Art Talk will be livestreamed over the First Fridays YouTube channel on Nov. 5. Visit firstfridayswinnipeg.org/art-talkart-walk.html for updated times and information.

Published in Volume 76, Number 07 of The Uniter (October 28, 2021)

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