The Forum Art Centre (Institute), located at the northeast corner of Coronation Park in St. Boniface, is a hangout for artists of all ages and abilities.
Nikola Bjelajac, eminent Winnipeg artist and university art instructor, founded the Institute at 675 Berry St. in 1964. His vision: to offer quality art instruction to anyone who wanted it, irrespective of socioeconomic status. He wanted to build a community of ordinary folks bonded by their love of art.
After a transient history of short stays at odd places over the years — the Carling Brewery carriage house, a school for the deaf, an old CPR building, even a condemned house — the FAC has been firmly entrenched at its current site at 120 Eugenie St. since 1999.
Bjelajac, who passed away in 2006, imparted his passion to current executive director Daryl Dumanski, an interior designer with a B.I.D. from the University of Manitoba. And the place couldn’t be in better hands.
Dumanski has nurtured the Bjelajac vision of "art for the masses" since 1996 and has worked tirelessly to convert the former City of Winnipeg library, once considered surplus storage in the 1980s and ’90s, into a hub that attracts folks of every age to participate in virtually every artistic medium.
She is very proud of the familial atmosphere that spans generations.
"We have a great-grandmother who comes to classes with her great-granddaughter. Four generations of some families are connected to our place."
She also speaks glowingly of her cadre of talented instructors, who often devote discretionary time to students and the events in the studio.
Joel Novek, a retired university professor, has been coming for years. He is currently working on an acrylic piece and appreciates the top-notch instruction and artistic fellowship.
"Daryl and the people here are really friendly," Noveks says. "I get great advice and extra studio time to work on projects."
Over 15 classes are currently underway and Dumanski would like to increase those numbers, especially with increasing research on the importance of right-brain training.
"Art is a chance to escape from our busy lives, to get in touch with our feelings and consider new possibilities," she says.
The centre does have its financial challenges at times, so the FAC team has created other cash-flow streams by subletting space to the Winnipeg Sketch Club, the Manitoba Society of Artists and the Norwood Grove Biz. Manitoba artist Jim Corbett rents a studio in the facility.
Dumanski is quick to note that this not-for-profit registered charity relies on the hard work and commitment of many volunteers and a board of directors.
Her hard work has not gone unnoticed, either. She earned a Women of Distinction Nomination in 2012.
FAC offers traditional classes in watercolour, pottery, acrylic and water soluble oils; and in more contemporary mediums such as art-online, animation, manga and collage.
Drop in to inquire about that art class you‘ve said you always wanted to take. And don’t worry about your ability. The FAC team loves working with people who say "I can’t even draw a stick man."
You can reach Dumanski at 204-235-1069 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adriano Magnifico is a community correspondent for St. Boniface. You can contact him at email@example.com.