Crafting a place in the art scene
Point Douglas resident has her fingerprints across much of Winnipeg’s creative community
ENNIFER Smith likes to volunteer because it’s a way to give back to the community that supports her career.
When she isn’t working her day job as the distribution co-ordinator at Video Pool Media Arts Centre, Manitoba’s only artist-run centre dedicated to experimental practices in technology-based art, the 38-year-old keeps busy volunteering at arts organizations.
Smith says the great thing about volunteering for such organizations is that she gets to see the tangible ways they help artists, many of whom are her colleagues and friends.
“It’s pretty amazing to see how many of these organizations, which are artist-run and centred, have an impact on the careers of artists in Canada,” the Point Douglas resident says. “Getting to be a small part of that is great.”
Smith has been interested in art since she was a child, and she studied art history at the University of Manitoba.
Taking a course on the history of textiles led Smith to one of her first volunteer opportunities, at the Costume Museum of Canada.
While she is drawn predominantly to curatorial work and writing about art, Smith does make her own, mostly in the form of handmade crafts.
This interest led her to the Manitoba Craft Council, which promotes and advocates for fine craft and its makers in the province.
Smith has volunteered with the organization for the past eight years, serving on its board for three years and more recently helping its human resources and fundraising committees.
“Craft is a passion of mine, so it just made
Jcomplete sense that was a place I wanted to give my time and work with and learn from,” she says.
Smith is a feminist and advocates for women artists whenever she can, so getting involved with Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art
(MAWA), an organization that supports and encourages women in the visual arts, was a natural fit. She recently completed a stint as chair of MAWA’s board of directors. Smith, who is Métis, serves on the board of directors for the National Indigenous Media Arts Coalition, which supports and advocates for Indigenous artists and arts organizations in Canada.
She is also board president of the Coalition of Canadian Independent Media Arts Distributors, which developed Canada’s first non-profit online video and film distribution platform, and she works with the boards of the Manitoba ArtistRun Centres Coalition and the Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference.
One of the biggest highlights of Smith’s recent volunteerism has been her involvement with the C2 Centre for Craft, a museum space dedicated to craft that resulted from a partnership between the Manitoba Craft Council and the Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library. Smith volunteered on the fundraising committee.
“It was really great to see how this committee of eight people came together and really committed, and (has) been able to raise funds for a new space,” she says.
Volunteering is an amazing way to engage with the arts, Smith adds.
“If there are people out there looking to volunteer, getting in touch with any of the 10 artist-run centres in the city and offering help is always amazing,” she says. “It’s really important to consider the arts as a really important place to give our time, because the arts contribute a lot to the community.”
Jennifer Smith says volunteering for local organizations is a great way to support Canadian artists.
Guests mingle at the 2016 Over the Top art auction and cupcake party, hosted by Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art.