Where the art is

Graduates of the fine arts program at the U of M prepare for year-end show

Image provided by Kendra Okrusko

A group art exhibition where the contributing creators are on hand everyday throughout the entire run of the show, willing to interact with visitors who have questions?

It’s a real event, and it’s starring some of Winnipeg’s highly trained, emerging artists.

Students in the bachelor of fine arts program at the School of Art (SoA) at the University of Manitoba have been showcasing their works annually for many years, but alterations have recently been made to the crowning exhibition of the year’s cohort.

“For this exhibition, the only works being shown will be from fourth-year students presenting their theses,” says Kendra Okrusko. Okrusko, who is the secretary for the School of Fine Art Students Association, is in her fourth and final year of the program.

“All the pieces you encounter will have been created by artists who are specialists in their craft. You’ll see a definite strength in what they’re presenting,” Okrusko tells the Manitoban.

The SoA is Western Canada’s oldest art institution, founded in 1913 as the Winnipeg School of Art. Alumni include Paul Butler, who is now the curator of contemporary art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery; renowned artists Ivan Eyre, Eva Stubbs, Wanda Koop, and members of the Royal Art Lodge collective.

Okrusko studied both ceramics and fabric art. She has exhibited her work previously at the U of M’s Gallery of Student Art and has been commissioned to do a few pieces. She explains that it is easier to sell functional ceramic pieces than it is to sell conceptual fabric works.

“My works are mainly based on imagery from my grandparents’ slides, which I appropriate by altering them and then printing them onto fabric,” says Okrusko.

“I take panels of fabric and create different installations. One project is a three-dimensional object installed so it hangs from the ceiling and is lit from beneath,” Okrusko describes. “What I’m deeply rooted in is family dynamics. It’s about my influences and how a family can affect your outcome in life. I’m inspired by Amelia Fais Harnas, who does fabric-based work as well.”

For people unfamiliar with different artistic terminology, the format for this particular exhibition is ideal. Not only are the contributors and their works discussed in a catalogue that will accompany the show, but Okrusko explains that three or four artists will always be on hand throughout the run of the show to answer any questions.

Okrusko says life for a student artist in Winnipeg is becoming easier as there are increasing efforts made to connect students with affordable resources and other practitioners in the same craft who can offer support.

Winnipeg-based programs that offer these opportunities can be found in the likes of MAWA’s (Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art) Foundation Mentorship Program, which pairs emerging artists with established professionals.

“It’s good to support your young and striving artists and to see what is going to come about in the art world and support the future of young artists,” says Okrusko.

You can also support these young professionals not only by getting to know the works and theory behind them, but also by hanging out with the artists. Following the exhibition’s reception, an after party will be held at the Media Hub (300 – 72 Princess Avenue) with DJ Shanks and Mise en Scene playing. Tickets are $10 and  available at Answers, Into the Music, and Music Trader.

The SoA is also gearing up for a fundraising gala dinner and silent auction on the second last day of the exhibit. The proceeds from this event will go to secure funds for a master of fine arts entrance scholarship.

The show opens April 19 with a reception from 5 p.m.-8 p.m., and then runs until April 27 at the U of M at 313 ARTlab (180 Dafoe Road). Regular exhibition hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from noon until 4 p.m.


To purchase tickets for the gala fundraiser contact maryann.steggles@umanitoba.ca