Art City’s summer program comes to life in West Broadway

By Daniel Halmarson

Art City Outside is an all-ages summer drop-in program in Winnipeg’s West Broadway neighbourhood./DANIEL HALMARSON

Posters warning West Broadway residents to “beware of the talking trees” and to be on the lookout for “lost monsters” appeared on light poles and community bulletin boards last Monday afternoon.

Participants created the pretend posters on the first day of Art City Outside, the not-for-profit art studio’s outdoor summer program.

Art City staff member Gabrielle Funk helps tape “pretend posters” to a light pole on the corner of Langside and Sara on July 6./DANIEL HALMARSON

Art City has provided a community-oriented art space in the West Broadway neighbourhood for 22 years. In March, all in-person programming was cancelled because of COVID-19.

Art City’s managing director Josh Ruth said during the shutdown many participants expressed how much they missed going to Art City.

“The common sentiment is that people had been cooped up and feeling isolated,” Ruth said in a phone interview last week. 

Ruth, who’s been in his role for the past seven years, said Art City staff kept in touch with participants, delivered art supplies and created weekly prompts for at-home artmaking during the studio’s shutdown. 

Monday’s launch of Art City Outside, which runs weekdays through July and August, marks the return of in-person programming for the studio. 

“To be able to come together again to make art and share an experience is really healing.”

In order to adhere to provincial guidelines, Art City is utilizing a colourfully sectioned-off area in the park behind Broadway Neighbourhood Centre (BNC) to provide a safe space for staff and participants. 

“We’ve been consulting everybody – staff, participants, community members – on how Art City reopening could function,” Eddie Ayoub, Art City’s artistic director said last week.

The outdoor studio features tables for arts and crafts, a handwashing station and friendly reminders to the young artists to maintain social distancing. 

Art City staff and participants sanitize their hands as they enter the outdoor studio space in West Broadway on July 6./DANIEL HALMARSON

Over the next eight weeks, participants will explore different mediums like Indigenous art, ceramics, and photography for free in a controlled environment.

Ayoub said they wanted to include the aspects that made both indoor and outdoor programming successful in the past. 

“I think that’s all present and we’re not compromising on the quality of the art programming being delivered,” Ayoub said.

Art City’s impact on West Broadway extends past colourful posters on telephone poles though. Each day begins and ends with free meals provided to all participants.

Last Monday’s late afternoon meal included spaghetti and salad for the 30-plus youth who attended the first day of Art City Outside. 

“It’s something they’ve told us is really important to them,” Ruth said. “They appreciate regular access to good meals.”

Art City’s meal program is funded by the Siobhan Richardson Foundation and food supplies are donated by organizations like Winnipeg Harvest. 

Partnerships like these, along with groups like BNC and West Broadway Bear Clan, are essential to Art City’s mission – “to create a positive and expanding cultural impact on the unique needs of the community.”

In the 19 years since he first volunteered at Art City, Ruth said he’s witnessed individuals be transformed by their experiences through artmaking and has seen the community infused with positivity because of access to programming like Art City Outside.

“We know so many barriers exist, especially for folks from historically marginalized communities,” Ruth said. “But, by offering a space for youth to come together in the spirit of self-expression and creativity, we’re effectively removing those barriers.”

Art City Outside runs Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit