Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lower income doesn't stop these artists from creating

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IF Art from the Heart proves anything, it is that talent and the urge to be creative are not limited by economic circumstances.

"What I've realized is that the need to create is almost as strong as the need to eat," says Tammy Sutherland, organizer of the exhibition and sale of art by low-income artists, which took place Nov. 12 and 13.

The event is in its fifth year and Sutherland says that she is always impressed by how much art is being created by those whose challenges extend beyond what types of brushes to use.

"These are people who will spend their last dime on art supplies. The determination they have to make their art is amazing," she says.

For example, Sutherland points to Alexandra Michaels, an artist who not only faces the challenge of poverty, but also has cerebral palsy.

"She creates her art exclusively on a typewriter, using different letters and symbols to colour her work," says Sutherland.

Approximately 100 artists got to show as many as three pieces of their work at the exhibition, which took place at Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre on Langside Street.

According to Sutherland, the number of artists and the scope of the exhibition has grown considerably since the beginning of the project, which began in 2000 as a way to provide low-income artists in the area with a venue to show their work and offer it for sale. The exhibition was organized as part of the St. Matthews-Maryland Community Ministry Artists' Circle, which was a group of beginner artists who were meeting weekly to improve their creative skills.

"The first year we had around 40 artists. But Art from the Heart has really evolved and now it is open to artists from all over the city, even outside the city," she says.

One artist who got involved for the first time this year is Deborah Wilde. The 52-year-old West Broadway resident entered two paintings into the exhibition, and is generally feeling excited these days about the idea of being an artist.

"I'm a late bloomer. I got my degree in fine arts (from the First Nations University of Canada, in Saskatchewan) eight years ago," she explains.

For most of her adult life, Wilde worked as a nurse while raising two sons, both of whom are now adults. But in the last year, Wilde has decided to make a transition from health care to arts, a lifelong dream that is proving to be a challenge.

"I'm living off less than half my normal salary," she says.

Although her financial resources have decreased, her artistic output has increased substantially, a situation that is being supported by her involvement in a year-long mentorship program organized by the Manitoba Association of Women Artists.

Wilde says she likes to paint what is "close to her heart", so many of her acrylic paintings have aboriginal themes.

In fact, the two paintings that she submitted to the Art from the Heart exhibition were from a larger body of work called Catharsis.

The paintings, a drum and a mask, were a reflection of Wilde's belief that drumming and theatre are ways in which aboriginal women can deal with inner pain and turmoil.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 17, 2004 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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