Art-making at your own pace

Curtis Wiebe, WAG Studio Instructor and his paintbrush Bruce

Cara Mason, a Learning & Programs Coordinator manages WAG Studio with the generous support of community partners. In April, the WAG launched online sponsored art classes as part of WAG@Home, and these art-making video tutorials have provided relief and inspiration to many. WAG Studio will resume in-person programming July 14, and in the meantime, learn more about art classes at the WAG, including 5-week online sessions.

Long-time partners Winnipeg School Division & Seven Oaks School Division both came on board to support WAG virtual studio programming. What have they made possible through their support?

Our partnership with Winnipeg School Division goes back to 1936 when the WAG first began offering art classes.  Once the Gallery as we now know it opened in 1971, our classes for Winnipeg School Division students expanded. This year, we have four different programs exclusively for Winnipeg School Division students. Over 400 youth receive free art classes through this partnership each year.  In 2012 we began partnering with Seven Oaks School Division, teaching art to their middle years classes each morning, with over 450 students participating annually.  While both divisions have graciously partnered with us for many years now, the programs have always been offered to children within those divisions and have run separate from each other.  When it became clear that these programs could not run in their current format while self-isolating I started looking for a solution.

I reached out to the divisions with a proposal to use the funding for our spring programming to create video tutorials accessible to students in both divisions. They both jumped on board very quickly, adding on even more benefits including opening their art rooms for students that didn’t have access to art supplies, creating written instructions for students without Internet access, and my favourite part – making the videos accessible to everyone! Winnipeg School Division and Seven Oaks School Division’s generosity is unparalleled!

What advantages does online art instruction offer?

Having these video tutorials accessible to everyone is a very exciting aspect.  In the last two months the videos have accumulated over 2300 views.  The tutorials will live on the WAG’s YouTube indefinitely, allowing the impact to continue long after students are physically back in classrooms.  The two instructors creating these video tutorials are incredibly talented artists, and we’re so fortunate to have this resource. One of the instructors, Jessica Canard is a visual artist from Sagkeeng First Nation. Canard incorporates her culture and teachings into all of her lessons. This method of teaching allows her to spread her knowledge to so many more of you than would have been possible with in-person classes. An added bonus is that you can participate in the projects anytime, which is especially nice for families having to juggle a lot right now.

Why is now the right time to try out art-making whether for the first time or in a new medium?

Maybe you’re drawn to a project because you’re bored, or you need to give your kid something to do.  But art-making can do so much more than that.  Not only is it a wonderful way to express yourself, it’s also proven to reduce stress. This time in our lives is going to recorded in history books. What better way to mark it than by creating a visual representation of your thoughts and feelings?

The other instructor creating tutorials is Curtis Wiebe. He is a multidisciplinary artist specializing in animation, film, and sculpture. Each week he’s joined by a paint brush puppet named Bruce, who works alongside him, and he ends every video by saying “Keep thinking creatively, and be kind to yourself”. I think we could all really benefit from that right now. There’s no pressure, no timeline, and no grades. The tutorials are specifically designed to use minimal supplies, many of which you can find around your house. One day you’ll look back at what you did during this time. Why not make it art?

How does taking in WAG exhibitions complement studio programming for participants?

Viewing and discussing art is an important part of an artist’s growth. One of the downsides to the online tutorials is that participants are missing out on the community aspect of a traditional art studio. Fortunately, WAG exhibitions can fill that void, and do so in a safe way. By visiting Gallery, students are able to see different methods and mediums, learn about art history, and get inspired!

What can we look forward to once in-person Studio programming becomes possible again?

We are happy to say students will be back in the studio as of July 14!  Our classes will have reduced numbers to allow for physical distancing, which has the added benefit of more one-on-one time with the art instructors. Not too long afterwards, we’ll be moving from the lower level of the Gallery to the newly renovated Penthouse studios!  We’re so excited to see students again, and we can’t wait to share the new studios with everyone!

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The Winnipeg Art Gallery is located on Treaty No. 1 the original lands of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininiwak, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.
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