Art and appreciation WAG opens doors for front-line workers and their families

The Winnipeg Art Gallery opened its doors Tuesday for the first time since March 14, but things were pretty quiet.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/05/2020 (948 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery opened its doors Tuesday for the first time since March 14, but things were pretty quiet.

“We’ve only had about seven people or so,” said Amber O’Reilly, stationed by the main entrance to greet visitors.

O’Reilly is doing double duty now both in her regular job as engagement officer for the WAG and as additional security around the galleries to ensure that visitors are practising proper COVID-19 physical distancing.

Tara Klassen, who works at Health Sciences Centre, took her children (from left) Sidonie, 11, Analeigh, 12, Charlotte, 9, and Ethne, 6, to the Winnipeg Art Gallery Tuesday on the first day of its reopening for front-line workers. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

The WAG offered free admission to front-line workers and their families Tuesday and Wednesday and is set to open to the public Thursday, with regular admission rates.

Visitors will be asked to complete a self-screening health questionnaire and are informed of physical-distancing protocols in place. Masks are encouraged, but not mandatory, and everyone is asked to keep two metres apart.

That didn’t prove to be much of a problem for the two or three families wandering around Tuesday afternoon. By comparison before the pandemic, free events every second Sunday often drew numbers close to 1,000.

“It’s not about the number of visitors we have today, tomorrow or next week,” director and CEO Stephen Borys said.

“It’s really about the WAG being a place in the community, a welcome, engaging and safe space open to everyone. Winnipeggers need places like the WAG — outside of their home or workplace — where they can find together or alone, inspiration, recreation and rest.”

Recreation is something HSC health-care worker Tara Klassen and daughters Analeigh, 12, Sidonie, 11, Charlotte, 9, and Ethne, 6, are definitely ready for.

Klassen’s children are home-schooled and are used to being out a lot and going on field trips, so being locked up at home has been a bit of a challenge.

“We haven’t gone anywhere in a couple of months,” she said. “It seemed like a great day to get out and enjoy the gallery.”

The girls had plenty of room to explore at the WAG. They wandered through the contemporary exhibits and the salon-style wall, where they saw a painting of three little girls in fancy dresses with a cute pug-like dog.

“They look like us,” one of them remarked.

“Yeah, but we don’t wear dresses like this,” another replied.

As Klassen and her family continued to explore, a few other individuals and families trickled in.

Community nurse Christine Cockerill was with her son Luke.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Christine Cockerill who is a nurse, enjoys looking at art with her son Luke at the WAG on the first day of its re-opening for frontline workers, Tuesday.

“I had a day off,” she said, “and it was something to do. This is really a nice opportunity. Besides work and groceries, this is the first time I’ve gone out.”

“And I came with my mom,” said Luke. “I had nothing else to do.”

Cockerill hadn’t been to the WAG in a while, so she was excited to see what’s new, such as Into the Light, an exhibit dedicated to the work of Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald that was originally set to open on April 3. She was also drawn to an Italian sculpture called the Crouching Venus; she reflected on the different experiences of Italy and Canada during the pandemic.

“(Italians) weren’t even allowed outside to get fresh air,” she said, “but they still all gave praise to their front-line workers.”

Before continuing through the gallery, Cockerill took a moment to thank O’Reilly and the WAG for being open and for celebrating front-line workers.

“It’s not just nurses and doctors who are front-line workers,” she added. “Truck drivers, the people that are in your grocery store deserve to be recognized.”

Twitter: @franceskoncan

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Frances Koncan

Frances Koncan
Arts reporter

Frances Koncan (she/her) is a writer, theatre director, and failed musician of mixed Anishinaabe and Slovene descent. Originally from Couchiching First Nation, she is now based in Treaty 1 Territory right here in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


Updated on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 9:39 AM CDT: Corrects reference to salon-style wall

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