15 years ago Graffiti Gallery opened in Winnipeg.
It started as a safe place for youth to come and create. The centre has grown into a healthy environment for all forms of artistic expression. The ultimate goal at the centre is to use art as a way towards community change, social change, and individual growth.
Jessica Canard could be described as a disciple of Graffiti Gallery. Four years ago, she took part in the Urban Canvas Program, spending 48 weeks learning everything about art, along with seven other aboriginal artists. Now she is an assistant coordinator at the gallery.
Canard says Graffiti Art Programming Inc. has made a huge difference in her life. "Graffiti Art helped me in so many ways," she enthused. "Not just for my career as an artist, but also for my own personal growth. I learned how to treat people, how to handle myself and how to express myself, both verbally and visually. I'm not sure I would have found that anywhere else."
Now, as part of their fifteenth anniversary, Graffiti Art Programming Inc. is celebrating with an exhibit called Collective Chaos. It is a collaboration between Jason Botkin and Jeremy Shantz from En Masse, a Montreal based multi-artist group, and 13 local Winnipeg artists.
In french, 'en masse' means 'all together.' According to former Winnipegger Jason Botkin, working together is key. "This is a really cool project...It’s one of those rare opportunities where we get to inhabit a gigantic space with drawing. It’s a free for all," he explained.
"It’s so rare to be able to do that and to have a block of time to invest in a project like this with a bunch of artists who don't even know each other. Part of the mandate is to open up different avenues of exploration so this becomes our work," he said. "This is more than a mural. It's more like an installation and it's a very immersive experience. That’s the defining factor for this project."
Pat Lazo is the artistic director at Graffiti Art. He worked with Botkin for a year to make this project in Winnipeg happen. Lazo participated in an En Masse Project himself, in Miami last year.
"I had such an amazing experience collaborating with artists from North America I wanted to see a similar project happen in Winnipeg at Graffiti Gallery," he explained.
The group of artists in Winnipeg worked 'en masse' over five days to create a floor to ceiling work, in black and white. The whole idea was for the artists to work spontaneously together. In the end they produced a work that no one could have created on their own.
The opening for En Masse: Collective Chaos takes place at Graffiti Gallery, 109 Higgins Avenue on Thursday November 14, from 7 - 11 p.m. The exhibit runs until January 15, 2014. Before then, hear Graffiti Gallery participant Jessica Canard along with En Masse co-leader Jason Botkin on CBC's Up to Speed with host Ismaila Alfa, Thursday November 14 at 3:30 p.m.