Internationally recognized artist Daniel Barrow traded his Montreal studio this past week for Winnipeg's Art City, a community art centre in his old West Broadway neighbourhood.
The Winnipeg-born performer has exhibited his intricately drawn moving projections all over the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands. He won the $50,000 Sobey Art Award in 2010 and spent the past summer working in Scotland representing Canada as a Glenfiddich artist-in-residence.
He visited the after-school drop-in art centre this week to lead a Christmas-themed puppetry workshop.
"I'm interested in community-based projects and I love working with kids and just being around that kind of energy," says Barrow. "This is also one of my old neighbourhoods, it's a neighbourhood that I care about, so I wanted to come back and contribute."
Participants in Barrow's "Mad Lib Christmas Puppet Pageant" spent the week making papier-m¢ché puppets and a large puppet theatre. Barrow gave each of his performers scripts for classic holiday stories that were missing adjectives, nouns and verbs. They filled the scripts in with their own words, and performed at Art City.
"It's pretty amazing, because I am a professional storyteller and I don't have kids of my own, so it's really amazing to just see what the story-making process is for kids of various ages and see how a story develops and how children conceive of plot and conflict and resolution," says Barrow.
Bryce Singbeil takes her three children to Art City at least once a week. She said the chance to work with a professional artist gives her kids opportunities they don't get anywhere else.
"Everybody's done puppet workshops at school, right, and you've done papier-m¢ché. This is just a whole other level," says Singbeil. "It takes them into seeing that they're capable of making something that you know maybe looks professional in the end that they didn't know they were capable of."
Her son, Pearson Montgomery, said this isn't the first time Art City has given him that special opportunity.
"I think it's neat that you get to work with someone that's done art with people all over the world," says Montgomery. "We've worked with a few people like that who've been in many places all over the world, and we have all kinds of artists who come from different countries and other places in Canada. It's really interesting to get to know all these new people."
He's had the chance to work with these artists because Art City brings in about 10 professional artists every year, says Josh Ruth, the centre's managing director.
Donations to Art City cover travel and living expenses for the artists they bring in. Providing employment and professional development opportunities to artists is part of the 15-year-old organization's mandate.
Ruth says the professional artists serve as role models to the youngsters, as well as offering "high-concept art experiences."
"Those kids that are actually interested in pursuing a career in art have a chance to rub shoulders with real practising artists, so it sort of gives them an idea, a context for what a career in art might look like," says Ruth.
Zoe Gordon from Thunder Bay and the art duo Whale, made up of Ryan Klatt and Laura Magnusson, were among the artists brought in this year.
Every year, Art City receives about 100 proposals from professional artists who want to lead workshops, said Ruth. They are accepting submissions for 2014.
Art City is a free drop-in centre open to all ages and abilities, Monday to Friday evenings from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 616 Broadway.