Two new shows opening at Edge Gallery will present artworks by Studio 631 members. This is despite the fact that Studio 631 has essentially shut its doors.
The studio was housed in Winnipeg's Red Road Lodge, which was recently turned down for a federal grant, after years of receiving it.
Mark Johnston's earrings will be on display at the Edge Gallery (Kim Forrest)
Mark Johnston is a 39-year-old Aboriginal artist whose earrings and greeting cards will be on display as part of the exhibit. He was homeless and jobless when he discovered Red Road Lodge and Studio 631 two years ago. He says it made a huge difference.
"It brought the art out that was inside me," he says. "I had never really stopped to focus on it because I was always drifting around. When I lived here I used to sit here all hours of the night doing my artwork."
Chief executive officer Richard Walls runs the lodge, which houses clients recovering from addictions and mental health issues, as well as providing programming for people on the street.
Walls said without that money, he has to lay off staff and the studio was closed on September 1. "So that affects everybody on the street," he says.
Kevin Anderson's pen and ink drawings are part of 1st Nations Arts show (Kim Forrest)
37-year-old Kevin Anderson was dealing with serious drug and alcohol issues before he discovered Studio 631 just six months ago. "It helped me out of a bad place," he says. "If the studio wasn't here, I wouldn't have turned myself around."
He is upset about the gallery closing and says he will miss contact with the other artists that he met there. Anderson's pen and ink drawings will also be part of the 1st Nations Arts on Main Street
show opening September 14.
Word of the funding cut has also appalled Pat Bruderer, who has lived at Red Road Lodge for six months.
Bruderer, who produces birch bark biting artwork, said she fears she'll be homeless if the lodge closes.
Pat Bruderer specializes in birch bark biting art (Andrea Ratuski/CBC)
"I had a really hard time finding housing, and so I was pretty well homeless when I came here," Bruderer said. "What attracted me to this place is I found out it was an art studio," she added.
One of the most impressive artistic achievements that came out of Red Road Lodge is the enormous ceramic mural on the outside of the building. Participants worked on the project for three years. "The interesting thing is, you take people who are homeless, who've never worked with ceramics at all," says Walls. "It's really been a great project that's been very successful in terms of integrating the community, making people feel part of the community and they can stand back and say 'Hey, I did that.'"
While the doors of the facility are closed for the moment, Walls says he remains optimistic that they will find a funding model that will allow them to continue in the future.
Until then, they hope the exhibitions will bring public attention to the impact of the loss of Studio 631.