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Creative Manitoba is celebrating our 20th anniversary! To highlight our history and excitement about continuing to support Manitoba’s arts community, we spoke with community members who have made a particularly special mark throughout our past twenty years. These are their stories.

Debbie Keeper & Liz Garlicki | Urban Shaman

Debbie Keeper, photo by Stephen Falk.

When Creative Manitoba began offering workshops for and by Indigenous cultural workers, artists and art enthusiasts, it kicked off a partnership with Urban Shaman that has expanded throughout the years. 

The contemporary Aboriginal artist-run centre’s roster includes Debbie Keeper, Administrative Assistant and Interim Director and Liz Garlicki, Urban Shaman Outreach Coordinator.

“Kudos to Creative Manitoba for creating an Indigenous program, because I think a lot of organizations need to make that space. It’s a good thing when other non-Indigenous organizations make space like that. And I think that’s what’s really created a really strong bond with us,” said Keeper.

Keeper doesn’t whitewash it. She says many people come to Urban Shaman not because they don’t know their culture but because they’ve had it stolen from them. And that they are aware of the young people and older generations facing societal issues and the devaluation of culture because of that interference. 

“I think working with Creative Manitoba, with their Indigenous program and having an Indigenous person in that role, it created a space in that organization. Having that authentic space makes a partnership or collaboration possible,” said Keeper. “Arlea is a very authentic, very warm, very knowledgeable and sensitive person. That’s what makes that program, I feel, successful.”

Urban Shaman’s Membership Show and Sale exhibition, 50 to 500.
Urban Shaman exhibit, Tipi Joe “A Path to the Tipi between Stars and Time”

Arlea Ashcroft is the Indigenous Programs Manager at Creative Manitoba. She works with Keeper and Garlicki to brainstorm interesting topics for the Urban Art Biz workshop series. Available online, this series focuses on the business sense of the arts and offers insight into the professional world of Indigenous artists and galleries. 

“To have programming that is for and by Indigenous people, where we’re speaking directly to them, is so important. But it also translates for any artist as they explore mental health, art production and organizing your career,” said Garlicki.

With a small core staff and limited resources, Keeper says there are only so many services Urban Shaman can provide. Their partnership with Creative Manitoba, and providing webinars like Urban Art Biz allows them to extend their reach and offer more to the community.

“Collaboration. That’s how it works. We’re the benchmarks. We’re the ones that help people and guide them to become something bigger. We take our experiences, the bad and the good, and make their experiences even better,”  said Garlicki.

Amanda Emms is a freelance writer and activist living in Winnipeg, Treaty 1 territory. Her work includes collaborations with art organizations, non-profits, public health and media outlets. The library is her favourite space.

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