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U of M student volunteers at Art City for Alternative Reading Week

Art City: Bridging the gap between Winnipeg’s West Broadway neighbourhood and post-secondary education

February 25, 2015 — 

Who can be an artist? Can a lawyer? What about a scientist? Could business moguls paint landscapes in their spare time? What about farmers, could they be world-renowned sculptors? We all know these possibilities exist and in fact we probably know professionals who express their creativity on the side. Sometimes, the success in people’s professional lives gives a bit of economic freedom to pursue creative outlets.

What about those who are more typically disadvantaged — can they explore creative endeavours via artistic mediums? Of course they can; however, the poor often need to navigate around larger barriers to make it happen.

Art City has effectively removed some of those barriers, allowing disenfranchised populations throughout Winnipeg to paint, draw, build and sculpt — all at no cost.

Art City's Artistic Director, Eddie Ayoub [BFA/98]

“People often thank us for keeping kids out of trouble and keeping kids out of gangs,” says Eddie Ayoub, Art City’s artistic director. “What we do goes way beyond either real or supposed harm reduction. What we want is for everyone to have the same expectations of children throughout Winnipeg that they would have of their own children and grandchildren. Education in all its facets and forms is how that can be achieved.”

As a not-for-profit community arts centre located on Broadway in the heart of the West Broadway neighbourhood, Art City is dedicated to providing people of all ages with high-quality arts programming, free-of-charge. Its primary goal is to provide the opportunity and a safe environment for anyone who wishes to express creativity through art. Programming generally starts when schools in the area let out for the day because most of the participants coming to Art City are school-aged kids.

“People drop into Art City on their own terms, on their own schedule within our programming time,” says Ayoub, who graduated from the U of M with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1998. He adds, “Art City is open to parents, grandparents, family members, community members, adults who don’t even have kids and teenagers — people of all ages are all welcome. This makes us, I would say, the purest definition of a community centre, because of our accessibility and lack of any barrier to participating.”

A lot of the programming at Art City relies on volunteers. On any given week different community artists willing to share their own creative expression or cultural art form volunteer at Art City. Many of the volunteers are professional artists, who provide Art City’s participants opportunities to engage in a number of art forms and with the artists themselves.

A Reading Week break not spent on the beach

University of Manitoba students participating in Alternative Reading Week — a service learning initiative where students visit Winnipeg non-profit agencies to learn first-hand about socio-economic and political justice issues and to explore their role in the community — volunteered at Art City. From February 16 to 20 students from the faculties of law, science, agriculture and the Asper School of Business got their hands dirty, helping school-aged kids paint, draw and sculpt.

“We wanted to leave it open by calling it University of Manitoba Mixed Media Team-Up,” says Ayoub. “Instead of going snowboarding or relaxing on a beach, these students spent their week at Art City. I think that’s a good example for the kids here.”

Having students from a broad range of faculties, not typically associated with fine arts, fits into Art City’s theme for 2015, Art City University.“The whole purpose of that is to engage our participants in activities and experiences of post-secondary education,” says Ayoub. “Getting them to imagine the day when they’re finished grade 12 and they get to decide what to do next, and really pushing the fact that when you’re in post secondary education, you’re in classes with people who are interested in the same thing. You’re making friends, you’re having fun, with people who have the same interests.”

Kay Xu was one of the students volunteering at Art City for Alternative Reading Week. The first year science student wanted to get in touch with her crafty, artistic side and thought Art City would be a good fit. She also enjoyed guiding participants towards the direction of university, while assisting them in their creative projects.

“I hope that I was able trigger some sort of thought about university or post-secondary education in these kids. Maybe some of them haven’t been exposed to this kind of train of thought, so I hope to spark that and maybe spark some creativity along the way,” says Xu.

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