“Look at her face. See the way the artist has painted all that darkness around her but her face is in the light?” A member of my tour group at the Winnipeg Art Gallery was responding to a painting of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. Another tour member added, “Knowing what a good person she was, I’d say the light is coming from within, from inside her.”
The two people having that conversation live on the streets of Winnipeg. 1Just City is an organization that runs three drop-in centers for folks as their website says, “who have no place to call home.” Earlier this week they brought a group of their regular visitors to spend an afternoon at the art gallery. It was such a pleasure showing them around. They were so genuinely excited about the art. They had so many questions! They were so ready to offer opinions and share their ideas.
The group was drawn to this sculpture on our rooftop called The Poet by sculptor Ossip Zadkine. One woman pointed out the way the face looked much like something Picasso would have made, and a man in the group asked all kinds of questions about the Russian artist who’d created it.
Another woman was looking at this sculpture and I asked if she would like me to tell her the legend the piece was based on. Everyone listened intently as I related the story of an elderly woman who cares for an orphaned polar bear that becomes like a son to her. Their story takes a sad turn and they are separated but eventually reunite. There were several moist eyes in the group when I was done.
We spent a long time looking at this piece by Norval Morrisseau. His life story was of great interest to my group.
One woman was intrigued by this artwork and asked me all about it.
I loved taking the group around the art gallery. They were delighted to be there and were genuinely curious about everything. I told them I hoped they would come back. Their visit capped off one of those dream days at my job.
In the morning I’d given a tour to a group of high school students from a rural community about a 90-minute drive from Winnipeg. Their classes were officially over but they’d showed up at school early that morning to make the trip into the city. None of them had ever been to the Winnipeg Art Gallery before. They were so excited about all of the art. Once we’d gotten started they basically guided the tour, moving from one artwork to another that piqued their interest and asking me questions about it and making comments. They were so intelligent and knowledgeable and supportive of one another. I thought, “our world is in good hands if these kinds of young people are going to lead us in the future.”
I always enjoy my job at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, but some days are a little more challenging than others. This week I had one of those days when everything was a pure joy from start to finish. It was a dream day at work.