They will come this summer from as far away as Iran, Copenhagen, Montreal, Saskatchewan and Yukon and will be the new artists-in-residence above the offices of Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA).“It is an opportunity for them to make contact with a visual arts community that is renowned around the world for experimental art activity,” says MAWA Co-Executive Director Shawna Dempsey.
MAWA’s hard-earned reputation lies in 28 years of women artists mentoring, inspiring and empowering each other, says Dempsey. MAWA mentors are into their fourth generation of sharing, teaching and guiding each other; creating a rich and deep community of women who are committed to art and each other.
Today, most of that work takes place at 611 Main Street where MAWA took a storefront location almost seven years ago. MAWA’s modest studio is hard to miss. It’s become one of the new bright spots on Main Street and at times the activity from inside spills out onto the streets, like a good Manitoba social.
Meeting the Needs of the Art Community
MAWA adjusts programming to serve the needs of the community with some workshops designed to serve recent immigrant women. With Assiniboine’s help from their Sustainable Community Grants Program, MAWA hired an outreach co-ordinator who visited cultural centres and places of worship of some of Manitoba’s new immigrants and quickly learned that incredibly talented artists from around the world were already living in Winnipeg. MAWA started to hire new immigrant artisans to share their expertise and teach others everything from traditional Afghani Geraf embroidery used to embellish traditional clothing, to East African Oromo beading used to create age-old jewelry, to Bangladeshi block printing on fabric.
In the case of the block-printing workshop, the instructor Tasnim Siddiqua comes from multiple generations of crafters in Bangladesh who hand-print custom fabric for special occasions like weddings. She moved to Winnipeg a year ago with her husband and children and had some of her family’s pre-used wood blocks shipped to Winnipeg for MAWA students. Tasnim is just one of the talented Winnipeggers that this summer’s artists-in-residence will rub elbows with at 611 Main Street.
Did you know MAWA is celebrating 30 years in 2014? Read about MAWA’s Over the Top Celebration.
Adapted from asterisk June 2012 print version.