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This article was published 3/8/2011 (2210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It might be the hippest craft show you've ever seen -- or the craftiest art exhibition.
In Hovercraft at Aceart, seven Manitoba artists in their 20s and 30s have put a bold contemporary spin on craft traditions such as embroidery, weaving, woodworking, string art, paper-folding and paper-making.
The show, which opens today at 7 p.m. and runs to Aug. 26, is one of many art experiences the public can sample on Friday evening as the First Fridays gallery-hopping program once again livens up the Exchange District.
First Fridays, launched a year ago by artists Sue Gordon and Karen Schulz and now supported by the Exchange District BIZ, aims to create a vibrant scene in the historic district on the first Friday evening of every month.
The title Hovercraft suggests that the Aceart show's 20-plus works "hover above the assumed boundaries of craft and art," say Kerri-Lynn Reeves and Jenny Western, who have curated the show for the Manitoba Craft Council.
In fact, the curators say, those boundaries are being swept away by artists such as Takashi Iwasaki, who contributes colourful hand-embroidered abstract pictures and a fanciful sculpture made from materials such as wood, glass, quartz and animal horn.
For her installation Muddy Waters, artist Heather Komus has made lumpy paper with fungus in it, stitched on the paper, crafted bubble-like forms out of pig intestines, and embroidered on actual dried squids. The work is partly about species such as jellyfish invading fragile ecosystems.
Other artists in the show are Jeanette Johns, Kristin Nelson, Jennie O'Keefe and Suzie Smith.
At tonight's opening, artist Chantel Mierau will give a performance called Halo in which she sits in a rocking chair, knitting a sweater that she's already wearing. The garment's tubular neckline swallows up her head.
First Friday attendees won't see Mierau live, but she has video installations dealing with sewing and knitting in Hovercraft.
Though one might expect galleries that traditionally hold openings on Thursdays to start switching them to First Fridays, Jamie Wright of Aceart says the McDermot Avenue space has no trouble drawing crowds for Thursday openings, and he likes the idea of attracting a second wave on a Friday.
Aceart, like many galleries and studios that have been throwing open their doors on First Fridays, has been getting 20 to 30 visitors each time. "It's definitely a new audience, which is fantastic," Wright says.
Schulz, one of the program's founders, says Winnipeggers who have never ventured into the neighbourhood before are coming down, picking up a First Fridays map/guide and taking an art tour.
"We're on the radar now," Schulz says. "It's here to stay. The numbers aren't enormous, but there's a steady and growing number of people."
Every one of the 25 or so galleries in the East and West Exchange has been part of First Fridays at least once, Schulz says. Some of this month's participating venues include Cre8ery, Gurevich Fine Art, Red Road Lodge, Estudio Luna, Warehouse Artworks, Keepsakes Gallery, Urban Shaman and Golden City Fine Art.
The next challenge is to convince more restaurants, cafés and shops to embrace the program. If they do, Schulz says, more Winnipeggers and tourists will make a night of it by eating and shopping on First Fridays.
Jaime Davidson, bakery manager at Cake-ology on Arthur Street, agrees. "I think it's a great idea," she says. "I just don't think there's enough people taking advantage of it."
Joe Kerr, curator of the Pixels 2.1 photography gallery on McDermot, says First Fridays have been vital to his success since he opened last November.
Kerr presents a Manitoba photographer as a speaker each First Friday at 7 p.m. (this Friday it's Hans Arnold). He encourages people to eat dinner nearby, come for the talk, view the speaker's photo exhibition, then leave to visit other galleries. He's been packing in as many as 125 people. He offers door prizes and signs up newcomers to his email list.
The public perception that it's too difficult to park in the Exchange is the key challenge facing First Fridays, Kerr says. His advice to other galleries is to add more value to the visitor experience by staging events and actively promoting them.
"Artists are notorious for saying, 'People should be flocking to my door,'" he says. "You really have to be creative. Come up with something innovative. You have to grease the wheel."
Eat, drink and be arty
First Fridays was launched to encourage cultural activity in the Exchange on the first Friday of every month, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. It's modelled on successful programs in cities such as Kansas City, Phoenix and Denver.
Participating galleries, studios, shops and restaurants are asked to make small donations to promote the initiative.
A few days before each First Friday, the Exchange District BIZ prints and distributes a map/program guide. It's available all over the neighbourhood and can be downloaded at www.firstfridayswinnipeg.org
The BIZ has extended the hours of its foot patrols to 10 p.m. on First Fridays to provide security and information.
For the first time this Friday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., the BIZ is presenting a free First Friday concert by Keith and Renée on the Cube stage in Old Market Square.
The Bedford Parkade at the corner of King and Bannatyne offers half-price parking for First Fridays. You can park from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for $2.50.
At Platform Centre for Photographic + Digital Arts this Friday, you can see the performance installation Artistic Licence Bureau by Winnipeg's Glen Johnson (it officially opens tonight at 7). In a parody of the bureaucratization of the art world, Johnson has created an office where artistic licences are dispensed, complete with pamphlets such as "ME, ME, ME: Turn Your Self-Obsession Into a Career as a Performance Artist."
At Mayberry Fine Art during First Friday, anyone who makes a $20 donation can paint a section of a community canvas, with artist Andrew Valko's encouragement. It's a fundraiser for Art City.