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Fish, Rooftops and Alleyways: One Year at Artspace…

The following blog post is written by Dylan Jones, who is the administrative assistant at Artspace. You can find Dylan stocking the Little Library, guiding guests to the rooftop, or trying to load envelopes into the copier tray, poorly.

Roughly, let’s say, a year ago, I typed a blog post, reflecting on my first few months as the new administrative assistant at Artspace. This new job thrust me into new experiences within Winnipeg’s thriving arts and culture community. A year later, I return to continue the story I started. Where I last left off, I was gradually growing comfortable with my new surroundings, as someone tends to do in a fresh environment, especially one bustling with the creative energy Artspace embodies. Throughout those days, I spent some time navigating the halls, each trip strengthening my awareness of its story, both as a vital part of Winnipeg’s economic and commercial history and its current position as an arts and culture leader, nestled in the Exchange District.

Let’s hit the breaks, pause for a second, and take a breather; a whole year is a long time. What could I explore and share with you that addresses and illustrates my experience here? I could write a post that will follow a straightforward linear re-telling of events, where I state, “I did this and then I did that.” A play-by-play of sorts. I can already anticipate the groans. Oh! I could detail some of my administrative achievements: fixing, stocking, and dealing with the office printer…hmmm maybe something more interesting? Something you will actually want to read. Since a lot happens in a year, I’ll focus on two events that standout: Doors Open 2018 and the Drayway Art Lounges. These moments cultivated a new outlook, a position gleaned through the administration of, and participation in, artistic and creative endeavors. So, bear with me as I now attempt to interpret, translate and, most importantly, share this realization with you.

I’ll start with Doors Open 2018, an event where the public walks through the doors of Winnipeg’s historically and culturally significant buildings. Every entrance generates a new story. As I uncovered the place’s centuries-long history, a narrative started taking shape; however, I became increasingly aware that that was the story of the Gault building, and not necessarily Artspace. With that in mind, I created a tour focused on telling the tale of two buildings, separated by time, but with a shared history conveying how individuals transform and, most importantly, give life to space. Yes, the structure’s history is embedded in the walls, but its occupants infuse it with the energy essential in performing its social function, whether that is a shipping or cultural hub. In hindsight, was the tour a success? If the aim was to demonstrate Artspace’s growth from an industrial dry goods warehouse into its current position as a multi-disciplinary arts centre while acknowledging the importance of the Gault’s past, then the tour succeeded. Plus, my Mom contributed in facilitating the tour. So, that was extra special.

After Doors Open closed, a new project, already underway, fascinated me. The Drayway Art Lounges were held across four summer nights with the aim of visualizing the transformative nature of art, especially when applied to space, a space as unique as the Drayway. These Art Lounges were the setting for Yoel Jimenez’s art installation titled “Traversée”. After each event, more and more screen printed fish, of varying sizes, merged with the growing school covering the tunnel, an area that was initially used for the migration of dry goods. With each passing night, a different migration occurred whereby spectators dropped in, grabbed a drink, and observed the gradual changes as the summer drew to a close. The empty Drayway, usually used as a haven for cars, was now a wall-to-wall stream of creativity. As a tangible structure, the space remains the same; however, something entirely different emerged on its walls, illustrating the creative energy that emanated from a unique use of space. Just in case you were wondering: yes, the fish are still there, you can go take a look yourself, I did before I sat down to type this blog.

As you begin this final paragraph, I hope that what I have written has resonated with you, in some way. And if not, well I have one final chance. When I closed my first blog post, I wrote about standing on the rooftop with a group of photographers. We shared a moment, looking out over the Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District, observing the passing of time written in the architecture. Whether it’s Doors Open, the Art Lounges, or a trip to the roof, these instances, separated by time but joined by space, permitted a moment to reflect on Artspace’s past, present and, most notably, my emergence as a more confident person regarding how I may contribute to future creative endeavors.