MAWA: Celebrating 30 Years of Women’s Art

July 17, 2014 to September 28, 2014

Sheila Butler, Bedroom IV, 1980, oil on canvas, Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Gift of the Volunteer Committee to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, G-81-20.

This year Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) celebrates its thirtieth anniversary. For three decades this local arts organization has earned an international reputation for encouraging and supporting the intellectual and creative development of women artists, arts writers, and curators in this city.

Formed under the umbrella of the then artist-run Plug In Gallery in 1984, MAWA was created in response to women artists receiving fewer exhibition opportunities and academic positions than men, despite forming the majority of art school graduates. MAWA sought to ameliorate these inequalities by providing educational opportunities. Today MAWA has over 200 members, approximately eighty percent of whom reside in Winnipeg.

At the heart of its programming is MAWA’s Foundation Mentorship Program which involves pairing established women artists with emerging women artists to share skills and professional networks, and provide critique and feedback. Since 1985, over 200 women artists have benefited from participation in this intensive year-long program, working with artists at the top of their fields. Since 2008 it has partnered with different Winnipeg-based arts organizations each year to add an additional mentor and thereby open the program to different communities. For example, they have included mentors and mentorees from La maison des artistes, Urban Shaman Gallery, Manitoba Craft Council, and most recently, Arts and Disability Network Manitoba. MAWA has collaborated with Manitoba Arts Network in presenting six-month rural mentorships in a different region of Manitoba annually since 2010. In 2006 the Aboriginal Women and Mentorship Program was launched, and has since led to Indigenous mentors and participants being actively integrated into all programs.

Over the years MAWA has instigated a wide range of programs in response to the evolving needs of the community. The majority of these programs are offered at low or no-cost to people of all genders. At present, programs include symposia, publications, residencies, exhibitions, local artist talks, international curatorial talks and studio visits, lectures, skills-based workshops, professional practices workshops, a contemporary craft program, film screenings, an artist-mothers group, and field trips.

This selection of artwork, drawn from Winnipeg Art Gallery’s permanent collection reflects various members, mentors, mentorees, and program participants over MAWA’s history. The WAG congratulates MAWA on this milestone anniversary, and recognizes it for its integral role within the fabric of Winnipeg’s art community.

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