There are one hundred and seven Hutterite colonies in Manitoba and those colonies are home to a talented enclave of visual artists. I went to see an exhibit of artwork by Manitoba Hutterite artists at the Mennonite Heritage Village Gallery on the campus of Canadian Mennonite University.
When I worked as a columnist for the Faith Page of the Winnipeg Free Press I was invited to spend a day on a Hutterite colony. What an enlightening experience that was! Many of my preconceived ideas about Hutterite communities were dispelled. But that was a decade and a half ago and in an article in the Winnipeg Free Press last year I discovered that Hutterites colonies have continued to change.
There are different kinds of colonies. Some remain more conservative and don’t encourage much interaction with the outside world whereas others are much more progressive, offering comprehensive education programs, and a give and take with the wider community around the colony.
One change is that some colonies now allow access to computers, as this digital art piece illustrates. While televisions and radios are forbidden in Hutterite communities, computers have been necessary to keep the various business ventures of colonies competitive and are found in many colony schools. The Crystal Springs community near Ste. Agathe allows families to have home computers and cell phones. There is even a Hutterian Brethern website that provides lots of great information about Hutterites and their various communities in North America.
Since 1995 some Manitoba colonies have been sending members to the University of Brandon for teacher training so that by now there are more than eighty Hutterite educators qualified to teach the provincial curriculum in colony schools.
The exhibit at the Mennonite Heritage Gallery in the fall of 2019 was organized by Jesse Hofer of the Silverwinds Community. It included work by both school children and adult artists and offered the viewer a chance to see what life in a Hutterite community is like from a unique perspective.
One of the things that delighted me about the exhibit at the Mennonite Heritage Gallery was the wide variety of mediums used. In this blog post, I have tried to show one piece of art from each of the many mediums on display, but I know I have missed several. There were watercolours, linocuts, acrylic paintings, digital artworks, coloured pencil drawings, seed mosaics, plasticine pieces, pottery, wood carvings, comics and graphite drawings.
There was also artwork in the exhibit from many different Hutterite communities in Manitoba and I tried to make sure each piece in this post showed work from a different community.