Art Gallery Southwestern Manitoba

AGSM Executive Director, John Hampton, said the project has been in the making for a little over a year and it is exciting to see the concept come to fruition.

“We’re calling the new exhibition space for the art gallery the AGSM Billboard. When I first moved here, I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of Indigenous culture reflected in the public visual whelm, so for the first two years of the billboard we’re going to be focusing on Indigenous artists who have a connection to the region,” said Hampton.

The project for the new exhibition space is supported in part by the Canada 150 Grant allocated through the Brandon Area Community Foundation. The funding was made available through the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, an initiative of the Government of Canada. In total, $33,000 will be awarded to four Canada 150 community projects in Brandon through BACF.

“In order to have a strong value-based community you need a variety of components – recreation, culture, sports, history, education, music and art. That’s why it’s so important for us to support projects that help to enhance our community and make it a better place to live. This project combines history, culture and art and is there for everyone to enjoy” said Laura Kempthorne, BACF General Manager.

The AGSM Billboard project received a $10,000 grant. The first piece of art to be showcased on the billboard is called The Crossing. It is an oil pastel on tar paper created by Colleen Cutschall, a Lakota artist and long-time resident of Brandon.

The artwork will present a map of a crossing that occurs on the Assiniboine River just east of Brandon. The map pre-dates Brandon, but shows how the shallow, natural crossing was a big part of why Brandon is a community today.

“The river was a real barrier before bridges, that crossing was a very important part of the economic and cultural trade between peoples so that they could move between the territories. Colleen looked at that space as a gathering of different cultures and tribes recognizing the peoples of this nation,” said Hampton.

The original artwork has been enlarged to 12 feet x 30 feet to fit the new exhibition space. It will be installed on the exterior of the second floor of the AGSM.

“We’re really looking at that deep history of what this land is and how we forge connections between cultures, between nations. It looks to that history and to our ancestors for a model of how we can move forward and be good to each other as we continue to share this land,” said Hampton.

The next two projects will feature artists Jamie Black and Cameron Flamand. A new piece will be on exhibit every six months.

“The project would have been impossible without the support of the Brandon Area Community Foundation. Having that support to do this large and very visible project with community consultation has been really wonderful and essential. I’m very grateful.”

The AGSM Billboard will be launched on July 13 in partnership with the City of Brandon’s Summer Lights music program. The celebratory event with the unveiling of Colleen Cutschall’s art will feature music by Desiree Dorion and Jade Turner. There will also be free bannock tacos supplied by the Brandon

A billboard measuring roughly 3.65 metres by 9.1 metres (12 feet by 30 feet) fixed to the building will showcase local Indigenous art for the next two years.

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It’s the biggest project the art gallery has ever undertaken.