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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.

Shawna Dempsey | Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art

Shawna Dempsey with some artwork from the upcoming Members’ Show titled Food.

“Happy Birthday Creative Manitoba!”

Shawna Dempsey, co-executive director of Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA), gave these warm wishes after reflecting on the long-time partnership between both organizations.

Alongside Dana Kletke, co-executive director, Dempsey came to the artist-run centre in 2008. Due to a significant deficit in the budget at the time, they faced financial precarity that Dempsey says is common in the arts.

“So we had very little money, very few resources, very little staff, but a lot of ambition. And we wanted to make a lot happen. And the partnership with Creative Manitoba in those early years enabled us to provide and pay artists to lead programming that was really dynamic, really useful for the community that responded to community needs.”

It is the brainwork between the two organizations that Dempsey says makes such great programming and the financial partnership that makes so much possible. Dreamed up in 2010 by Carol Finlay, former manager of educational programming of Creative Manitoba, the Artist Boot Camp series is a product of this collaboration.

The series offers artists practical workshops to help advance their art careers. From navigating anxiety in their practice to getting insider tips on starting an online art shop, each session is taught by artists who offer practical advice drawn from personal experience.

Alongside MAWA’s own foundational mentorship programs, Dempsey says these workshops demystify the art world for participants and give them the confidence to call themselves an artist.

“If you make art, you are an artist. If you are committed to a creative practice, you are an artist. There are many different ways to be an artist, you could start at any point in your life. Whatever your goals are, they’re valuable and organizations like Creative Manitoba and MAWA can help you achieve them. We don’t dictate what those goals are, but we can help you reach them,” Shawna Dempsey

During the pandemic, the Artist Boot Camps shifted from in-person to online, where the series continues to live today. Through this shift, the organizations expanded their reach and saw a huge increase in participation from artists in rural and northern communities.

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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