It wasn’t until 17 years ago that North Point Douglas resident Becky Thiessen realized she was more than just a creative person.
Thiessen has been selected as one of the three artists that will be travelling with the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Canada 150 Signature Initiative ART EXPRESS’D/ART EXPRIMÉ in June. Thiessen will be leading the West to East route, starting in Alert Bay, B.C. and going to Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, and Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes. Artists will create a collaborative installation that will encourage community engagement.
ART EXPRESS’D/ART EXPRIMÉ will transform four 20-foot metal shipping containers into mobile studio and workshop spaces. Three of the shipping containers will be travelling Canada via train, truck and cargo ship over the summer months. The fourth container will be located at The Forks through a partnership with Parks Canada, offering art-making activities for the public.
"What better way to unite the country during Canada’s 150th year than by bringing art to communities as part of this historic journey. We can’t wait to see how artists connect with Canadians along the way as we highlight the country’s unique natural geography and cultural diversity," Stephen Borys, WAG Director and CEO said in a statement.
Thiessen has been creating art through painting, drawing, textiles, assemblage, sculpture, and digital media and has been teaching arts throughout Winnipeg’s communities for 20 years. She works with Art City, Graffiti Arts Programming Inc., Artists in the Schools, Art Smarts, and Engaging Fusion with the Winnipeg School Division. She also does work with community centres.
"I’ve done most of my community work in Winnipeg, sometimes in other rural communities around Winnipeg, but I haven’t taken it outside," Thiessen said. "It’s interesting going into a community when you don’t know anyone or anything and just try to see how art can be that form of engagement and communication between groups."
Thiessen’s proposal is to create murals that will connect community to community using handmade stencils created by the participants using tar paper. She’s been working and teaching people to use stencils to create art for more than five years. Stencils are made based on people’s environment and identity, and the artist said it is one of the most inclusive mediums.
"With stencils, if you are not super technically skilled, but you want to be a part of a project, you can just take that stencil, paint it and use it," she explained. "You can have people creating stencils, but individuals who don’t have those skills can also participate.
"As we move from a community, the thing about stencils is that you can share that with other people, they can be used over and over again."
Thiessen said her inspiration comes from little children’s imagination and hopes to encourage people to keep exercising their creative minds.
"Seeing just how they aren’t scared to experiment and they’ll see a piece of paper, and they’ll start creating without inhibition is inspiring. As people get older… they get a little bit more timid and don’t feel as confident in terms of art a lot of the time… I would say the young ages, their imagination is still so vivid," she continued. "I think as adults if we can learn from that energy I think that’s really helpful in our life and how we make decisions."
The exteriors of the four mobile art studios will be designed and painted in partnership with two Graffiti Art Programming Inc. and Art City Inc. To learn more about the project, and the artists go to canada150.wag.ca