With art, everyone is an artist

WITH ART program pairs community groups with artists for unique projects

“Fragments” by Sheila Mogg. Collage on Canvas, Diptych, each 15” x 24”. Sheila Mogg

We are our own toughest critic, and sometimes our own worst enemy.

This is what a group of youth learned through an eye-opening opportunity through the WITH ART project, which paired members of the Peer Projects for Youth program with local artist Lisa Wood for an exploration of self through art.

In the WITH ART program, artists apply to be on a roster with the Winnipeg Arts Council to work with local community groups who can then tap into the roster and select three or four artists that go through an interview process with the group.

In this case, the participants from the Rainbow Resource Centre-run program found that they connected most with Wood, and she was selected to work with them on what would become the Queer Perspectives exhibition and book.

“I was really impressed by how well spoken all of the youth were,” Wood says. “They were really engaged and self-aware.”

Wood is also the program coordinator at Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art, on top of her own studio work.

The Peer Projects for Youth program comprises of youths between the ages of 13 and 21. Wood worked with what started out as 10 participants (and eventually became four) over the duration of the project, which began in August 2011, and was made up of two phases: a learning phase and a hands-on phase.

It’s nice to have this project. I can say, ‘Wow, I actually did this; this is what I’m capable of.’

Sheila Mogg, 18-year-old artist

“Through conversation it came up that identity and gender were really big issues for them,” Wood says. “But they also felt like the voices of queer youth weren’t really being heard.

“So we decided together that what would be most important is for each of the participants to be able to tell their story in some kind of way through creating a piece of artwork.

What was born of this process was a multi-medium self-portrait project, with accompanying book.

“We also decided that, along with the self-portraits that they were going to produce, that I would also produce portraits of each of the individuals,” Wood says. “So there would be this idea of my interpretation of them, and a way of recording what the community looked like, and giving a face to their community.”

Sheila Mogg, 18, was one of the participants involved in Wood’s selection process.

“It was really interesting because everyone sees themselves in a different way,” Mogg says. “You usually see yourself more negatively than other people do, and they can tell you, but it’s a lot more meaningful to see it in a piece of art.

“In my first piece I’m secluded, I get lost in my head sometimes. In Lisa’s piece we look so confident and strong.”

Mogg believes everyone is an artist.

“It’s nice to have this project. I can say, ‘Wow, I actually did this; this is what I’m capable of.’”

See Queer Perspectives at aceartinc. in the Flux Gallery until Saturday, Oct. 27. Visit www.aceart.org for more information.

Published in Volume 67, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 11, 2012)

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