Six local artists have come together for a show devoted to Winnipeg in a basement gallery that's spent the last two years to promoting the city's artists at home and abroad.

This Must Be the Place opened Friday night at Lisa Kehler Art + Projects in the east Exchange District, with works from Ian August, Scott Benesiinaabandan, Erica Eyres, Sylvia Matas, Kristin Nelson and Cyrus Smith.

"We have video work. We have a site-specific installation. We have drawings. We have graffiti-style acrylic on paper," said Lisa Kehler. "I tried to choose as diverse a set of work as I could."

Ian August work

Work from Ian August (including this) is part of a Winnipeg-inspired show at Lisa Kehler Art + Projects. (Courtesy Ian August and Lisa Kehler Art + Projects)

The idea came from a discussion between Kehler and Smith about using the city as inspiration, something Kehler isn't new to. Her gallery's roster originally featured exclusively Winnipeg artists (as she says, "Whether here now, or once were") and has only recently branched out to non-Winnipeggers.

"We were sort of joking about having a real Winnipeg show where all of the work is specifically related to Winnipeg, whether that's through humour, sarcasm or sadness," said Kehler.

Assembling talented local artists has been the easier part for Kehler, but attracting attention from local collectors has been more difficult.

"There is a collecting crowd here. It's very small, though," said Kehler. "In order to help [local artists] keep making work, it's really important to collect their work. "These are the people who are creating in the community, and it's really important to support them." 

So Kehler's split her focus between local shows and international art fairs to sustain her gallery.

"We just did the L.A. art fair, which was really exciting. We were one of only three Canadian galleries," she said. "Maybe, with this show, it'll bring in more of a Winnipeg crowd in because I feel like Winnipeggers love to think about Winnipeg."

The exhibit runs until March 17 and is part of a series planned at Kehler's gallery. Next, she'll bring in work from three Montreal-based artists that focuses exclusively on the idea of home. 

Lisa Kehler

Lisa Kehler is the founder and owner of Lisa Kehler Art + Projects at 171 McDermot Ave. (CBC)