Public art strengthens community’s ties


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This article was published 15/05/2017 (2210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


Burrows neighbourhood residents and NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre members worked together toward a lasting representation of their community.

Burrows neighbourhood residents and NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre members worked together toward a lasting representation of their community.


Supplied photo Social Seed is hanging on NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre’s kitchen and dining room area.

NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre chose artist Gurpreet Sehra to create a community public art project through the Winnipeg Arts Council’s WITH ART community public art program. 

After several consultations, Sehra and the community agreed in creating an 

image based on a map of the neighbourhood from the early 1970s, when NorWest Co-op opened its doors. The name of the finished piece, Social Seed, is a play on the agricultural idea of nurturing, mapping and measuring relationships of different seeds. The centre of the map is the community food centre, and the drawing demonstrates the impacts 

NCCFC has had in the community.

Social Seed is made up of 119 fabric-coated 12 inches tile squares painted with acrylic paint. Since the start of the project, Sehra facilitated free art classes at the food centre. Together Sehra and students could explore different artistic techniques and generate ideas for a collaborative artwork. It was during these classes that Sehra became open to new solutions.

“It’s a great way to be open to whatever type of project that might arrive because the community doesn’t have expectations as to what will be made in the end and neither do I. We come up the with the project together and see what we can do together,” she said.

Although not 

immediately evident to the viewers, the different colours and the variations of tone incorporate statistics from the area into the artwork. Through research, Sehra said she wanted to align pieces of history and create something that was meaningful to the community.

“Doing a lot of research for this project I found that there wasn’t much history about the area. This area was developed later on, that might be the reason why there isn’t a lot documented. I thought it was good to highlight a little bit of the history of the community,” she said.

Building the map was a community 

Supplied photo Although covered in acrylic paint, bits of fabric pop up in the artwork.

effort. Residents met weekly to paint in the NCCFC. Each member worked on one tile or one step of the process of putting it together. For this reason, Sehra said the community could feel they own the project. All participants decided which tiles would have which fabric and colour. 

“This project was about doing something collaborative,” she added. “Public art is more important in the process and what you get from that process. It involves working with the community. It functions to share and build art skills. It functions to grow social bonds within the community and creates relationships that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

“I got to know this community, and they got to know me. I would love to work with them in the future too.” 

The piece is installed in the main dining area, a space that is most often used by NorWest Co-op for their programming and community lunches. On May 12, the community joined the WAC and NorWest Co-op at the food centre for the official unveiling of the project.

Sehra said Social Seed strengthened community ties.

“This piece is something that people can look back on and can be something that they know they put their time and effort into and that they can enjoy as they do other programming in the space.”

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