First Fridays offer artists exhibition opportunities


Elise Dawson examines a piece in “Conversations with the Land” by artist Jaime Black. THE PROJECTOR/ Jennifer Doerksen

Twenty-five-year-old Kristina Ansari held her first private art show on April 1 at First Fridays in the Exchange.

“It’s nerve-wracking. Usually the only way I’d share it would be on Instagram,” said Ansari, explaining that she finds social media impersonal. “So when you’re here, actually interacting with humans viewing your art, it’s weird.”

Ansari’s parents and the two-year-old boy she babysits came to her show. The boy ran around the gallery looking at art, looking out the window and chatting the entire time.

Winnipeg artist Sue Gordon and Karen Schulz introduced the First Fridays concept in Winnipeg after touring galleries on a First Friday in Kansas. Winnipeg’s inaugural First Friday happened on July 2, 2010.

First Fridays opens art galleries to the public from 5-9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month. People are invited to visit participating galleries for free, or they can join the ART TALK/ART WALK guided tour for a small fee.

Mahri White and Nic Adamson rent a space in the Artspace building. They host shows for First Fridays each month.

“You can’t necessarily get into a space unless you have a reputation or whatever, so this is kind of somewhere that we can show people that maybe wouldn’t get into a gallery,” said White, a Fine Arts student at the University of Manitoba.

Kristina Ansari stands with the title of her first private art show. THE PROJECTOR/ Jennifer Doerksen

Kristina Ansari stands with the title of her first private art show. THE PROJECTOR/ Jennifer Doerksen

White’s space functions as a part-time gallery and part-time studio.

“I’ve used it for a couple school projects. But we’re pretty open-ended about what we want to do here,” White said. “We’ve only had it for a few months, so we’re kind of figuring it out.” She added that she likes Winnipeg because it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Artist and gallery curator Elise Dawson rarely misses a First Friday.

“I’m currently at Woodlands Gallery out on Academy, which gives me an opportunity now to enjoy the art and atmosphere at First Fridays,” Dawson said. She’s also hosted the ART WALK/ ART TALK discussions for previous First Fridays.

“I think it helps attract more people to the Exchange. I hope newcomers get a taste of the richness our art community has to offer,” she said.

Visual art in Winnipeg gets attention at key times of year, like at Nuit Blanche, but First Fridays offers a chance for people to get involved year-round.

Katrina Mendoza is a Manufacturing Computer Aided Drafting student at RRC and an installation artist from Winnipeg who has held shows in Montreal and Toronto. She said Winnipeg’s art community is very tight-knit and has some perks.

“We’re kind of spoiled here. It’s a small community that’s very centralized because all the galleries are downtown,” Mendoza said. “In Toronto and Vancouver for example, galleries are scattered all over the place.”

“It’s easy to do interdisciplinary things,” Mendoza continued. “We’re considered a hotbed of art for some reason… they say maybe it’s because we’re isolated, and all there is to do is create.”