Craft­ing a place in the art scene

Point Dou­glas res­i­dent has her fin­ger­prints across much of Win­nipeg’s cre­ative com­mu­nity

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - AARON EPP

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.”

RUTH BON­NEVILLE / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Jen­nifer Smith says vol­un­teer­ing for lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions is a great way to sup­port Cana­dian artists.

MIKE DEAL / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Guests min­gle at the 2016 Over the Top art auc­tion and cup­cake party, hosted by Men­tor­ing Artists for Women’s Art.

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