The Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art was a staple of the Exchange District for nearly 40 years. However, with their new locale on Portage Avenue, they’re ready to take on four new shows and present the best in aboriginal art in the new year.
Director Anthony Kiendl says the reason for the gallery’s big move was to expand and diversify its audiences.
“We’d been based in the Exchange for 38 years, and we really got to a point in our history where we wanted to establish ourselves more firmly in the local community,” explained Kiendl.
“We did a public consultation and a study and we determined a few criteria. We wanted a lot of pedestrian traffic, we wanted a high profile location, and we wanted a good partner, and all those things came together with the university.”
When it opened in 1972, the Plug In was one of the first organizations on the Prairies to focus on contemporary art as a not-for-profit exhibition space.
It was intended to be a lab for research and an exhibition space for art that confronts contemporary ideas and issues.
It also wanted to be a home to all media, including interdisciplinary projects in architecture, film, television, photography, sound and new media.
Plug In vowed to bring the best in contemporary art to Manitoba, and to share Manitoba’s artistic vision with the world through exhibitions, events, tours, conferences, lectures and online projects grounded in research and analysis – and a healthy dose of experimentation.
This is visible in the various programs Plug In has nurtured over the years including Video Pool and Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA).
“Plug In is an institute and our main activity is research, so our primary activity is complimentary to the university,” Kiendl said. “Along with the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Gallery 1C03, I think we provide a great range of different art experiences. Plug In has also always had a real connection and an interest in youth culture, young artists and emerging artists, and alternative culture.”
Plug In’s new home at 460 Portage Ave. is co-owned and was co-commissioned by the University of Winnipeg and designed by a collective of three firms: David Penner Architect, Peter Sampson Architecture Studio and DIN Projects.
The blinding white building on the corner of Portage and Colony has been attracting curious onlookers through all phases of its construction, and has baffled some even upon its completion.
The public got their first glimpse at the pristine white walls, large rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors on Saturday, Nov. 6, when the gallery held its grand opening.
The evening started with all the glitz and glamour imaginable: champagne, appetizers and a host of notable people in attendance, including former mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis.
The night also saw performances by Pip Skid, Birdapres, Greg MacPherson, DJ Co-op, DJ Kinetic and DJ Rob Vilar, as well as a midnight performance by a professional soprano and a flautist.
Visitors were also able to get a look at the four new exhibits that will be kicking off the season at 460 Portage: Mountain of Shame, an exhibition of paintings by former Winnipegger Eleanor Bond; We are the revolution, a collection of stills by New Yorker AA Bronson; Putting the WILD Back into the West: Buffalo Boy and Belle Sauvage (2006-2010), a performance and installation piece by Saskatoon’s Adrian Stimson and Lori Blondeau; and, finally, a short film by London, England’s Shezad Dawood called A Mystery Play, which was produced in Winnipeg over the summer and commissioned by Plug In.
In January, Kiendl says we can look forward to a city-wide exhibition of aboriginal art involving not only Plug In, but also a whole host of Winnipeg galleries including the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Urban Shaman, Platform, 1C03, La Maison Des Artistes and Graffiti Gallery.
Published in Volume 65, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 11, 2010)