New outdoor exhibition space to highlight southwestern Manitoba’s Indigenous roots

These days, folks passing by the corner of Rosser and 7th Street in downtown Brandon, Manitoba, will have reason to pause and look up. That’s when the first of two new billboards created by Indigenous artists living in the province will be unveiled on the side of the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba (ASGM).

“We’ve never had an artistic showcase of this magnitude on the outside of a building in the city,” says Laura Kempthorne, general manager of the Brandon Area Community Foundation (BACF), the organization that facilitated the project’s funding. The opening presentation of these two works—one by established Oglala-Sicangu Lakota artist Colleen Cutschall and the other by emerging Métis artist Jamie Black—will be a festive block party filled with music, food and new friendships.

Other Community Fund for Canada’s 150 projects:

AGSM Executive Director, John Hampton, said the project has been in the making for a little over a year and it is exciting to see the concept come to fruition.

“We’re calling the new exhibition space for the art gallery the AGSM Billboard. When I first moved here, I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of Indigenous culture reflected in the public visual realm, so for the first two years of the billboard we’re going to be focusing on Indigenous artists who have a connection to the region,” said Hampton.

“In order to have a strong value-based community you need a variety of components – recreation, culture, sports, history, education, music and art. That’s why it’s so important for us to support projects that help to enhance our community and make it a better place to live. This project combines history, culture and art and is there for everyone to enjoy” said Kempthorne.

The first piece of art to be showcased on the billboard is called The Crossing. It is an oil pastel on tar paper created by Colleen Cutschall, a Lakota artist and long-time resident of Brandon.

The artwork will present a map of a crossing that occurs on the Assiniboine River just east of Brandon. The map pre-dates Brandon, but shows how the shallow, natural crossing was a big part of why Brandon is a community today.

“The river was a real barrier before bridges, that crossing was a very important part of the economic and cultural trade between peoples so that they could move between the territories. Colleen looked at that space as a gathering of different cultures and tribes recognizing the peoples of this nation,” said Hampton.

The original artwork has been enlarged to 12 feet x 30 feet to fit the new exhibition space. It will be installed on the exterior of the second floor of the AGSM.

“We’re really looking at that deep history of what this land is and how we forge connections between cultures, between nations. It looks to that history and to our ancestors for a model of how we can move forward and be good to each other as we continue to share this land,” said Hampton.

This high-impact project, which is funded through the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, is just one of four that BACF helped get going to celebrate the country’s heritage for its sesquicentennial.

Canada 150 Fund bringing history to light with multiple projects

In May, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra put on two educational concerts featuring culturally diverse works. In September, the Assiniboine Food Forest will hold a BBQ party to launch “Planting a Legacy,” a one-acre orchard dedicated to pesticide-free fruit trees. And lastly, in October, the Daly House Museum will mount an exhibition of historic photography depicting Dominion Day sporting events, First Nations demonstrations at the Brandon Summer Fair and more.

“The project would have been impossible without the support of the Brandon Area Community Foundation. Having that support to do this large and very visible project with community consultation has been really wonderful and essential. I’m very grateful.”

The next two projects on the art gallery’s billboards will feature artists Jamie Black and Cameron Flamand. A new piece will be on exhibit every six months.

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