A committee of female artists in Winnipeg found that post-graduation, women artists were falling off the grid.
Even though the majority of graduates from fine arts programs were female, there was a lack of opportunities in terms of accessibility to programs and tenured teaching programs.
In 1984, Plug-In Art (now known as Plug-In ICA) took all of these concerns into consideration, and from the struggle of female artists blossomed MAWA, Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art.
In 1990, MAWA became an independent organization and flourished as a female artist group that prided itself on mentoring artists by passing on invaluable knowledge, experience, confidence, and networking opportunities. Though their focus is on female artists, male artists are also welcome as members and are encouraged to attend talks, lectures, workshops, and studio visits.
MAWA offers a variety of programs and opportunities, including mentorship programs, workshops, lectures, and specific clubs that are applicable to different demographics of female artists.
The Artist Mothers group holds meetings on the first Wednesday of each month with the goal of not only sharing and creating art but also fostering a community of like-minded and supportive individuals.
“We usually have a theme and it’s usually tied into mothering because that’s something we all have in common as mothers and artists,” group member Briony Haig told the Manitoban.
The club meeting that I attended was the Artist Mothers’ One-A-Day Bash. The goal set by the group members for their November meeting was to create one piece of art per day for the month of October present them to the rest of the group at the bash.
The pieces varied from small-scale line drawings to collages to wishbone art.
“Everybody is making art and making such a diverse kind of art and pushing the edges,” said Haig.
“I feel like everybody inspires me at some time or another. It’s a powerful sisterhood.”
As the women presented their art, the encouraging atmosphere was extremely evident. Group members were supportive and attentive, while still discussing the pieces being presented with constructive criticism.
“We do generally bring work to every meeting, […] talk about it and get a little bit of feedback, suggestions, and support,” added Haig.
The group’s co-founder, Sandra Brown, said only two women showed up at their first meeting. From there, the artist mothers have grown into a group of 15-20 women attending meetings where they can relax and create in a safe space.
“There are constraints on mothers, but we still created a group,” said Brown.
Haig says the group has been an important part of her life as an artist mother.
“This group has been actually profoundly meaningful for me as an artist. I work full time as an art teacher so I am tantalizingly close to art. I think about and talk about art all day long, but I’ve been way too good at putting off making my own art. Then I joined this group, and it’s just what we all do, we all make art and we have shows. You have to produce for a show so that’s been gold for me.”
For more information on membership, workshops, lectures, and events, visit www.mawa.ca