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Apr 26, 2024

5 min. read

This Drop-In Art Program in Winnipeg is Open to Anyone Who Wants to CreateInitially joining Art City as a volunteer, Eddie Ayoub worked his way up to artistic director in 2007 and has kept the role since.

Photograph courtesy of Thomas Fricke. Text by Kate Rae.

It was 26 years ago when Winnipeg artist Wanda Koop started an underground grassroots project she called Nightwalks—painting murals on boarded-up properties in West Broadway, where she enlisted teenagers she met along the way. And this was when she first noticed the need for securable arts programming in the city.

“These were kids who should have had access to innovative and fun extracurricular activities, but were being underserved,” says Eddie Ayoub, artistic director of Art City, which Koop created when she saw Nightwalks’ positive impact on its youth participants. That same year, Koop also launched an experimental summer program out of a former nightclub, replete with mirror walls and a disco ball.

Today, Art City, which still operates in the same spot, has become an internationally renowned hub for connection, education and community. At its core is the drop-in program, which welcomes everyone, from moms with toddlers in tow, to teens and seniors, to explore different art media—ranging from printmaking and ceramics to digital art and drawing. Supplies, snacks and instruction are all provided free of charge. A robust outreach program is also in place—staff armed with art supplies visit various neighbourhoods weekly, and an Indigenous-led program conducts classes on how to make rawhide jewellery and medicine pillows. “We have a lot of newcomer participants who come,” says Ayoub. “It’s a really great way for them to learn about the Indigenous culture in Canada.” Art City is acclaimed worldwide, and countries like Korea and Japan have reached out to learn how to recreate it locally. “We’ve got an internationally renowned art scene full of creative people who want to bring their talents and their ideas to make art as accessible as possible for the community.”

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