Art City: Spirit of Giving.

Winnipeg Free Press, Wednesday December 7, 2010. Reproduced with permission.
By: Staff Writer. Photos: Joe Bryksa.

Art City executive director Cam Forbes.

Art City executive director Cam Forbes shares a happy moment with Marcel Fraser (left) and brother Michael.

What they do:

Founded 12 years ago as a safe haven for kids, parents and caregivers to express themselves through art in a sometimes-troubled neighbourhood, Art City is now a staple of West Broadway. It offers classes on pottery, black-and-white photography, digital photography and digital art, as well as guest-artist workshops and a healthy snack program.

Hopes for the Holidays:

Cam Forbes, Art City’s executive director, isn’t complaining, but the success of its programming, which is provided free of charge, is causing some issues. Two years ago, more than 5,400 people paid Art City a visit, but this year more than 7,000 will drop in. That means its current funding from the United Way, city and province is maxed out. The risk is that Art City won’t have enough supplies to keep up with demand.

“It’s great, it’s a nice problem to have. The studio is really successful right now,” she said.

Art City needs as much fabric, water-based paints, cotton batting, aprons, costume jewelry, googly eyes, feathers, paint brushes, yogurt containers and clay as its participants can get their hands on.

(They have more than enough crayons, magazines, pencil crayons, styrofoam trays, toilet-paper rolls and yarn in stock.)

But it’s not all about art. Forbes said there is a shortage of healthy, unprocessed fresh food in the neighbourhood, so every day, she and her crew make it available to their budding artists, most of whom are between the ages of eight and 13.

Art is having an impact on participants’ views of education. Forbes said she recently took a poll and discovered that of the kids who visited Art City less than 50 times, 47 per cent of them felt good about school. Of those who visited more than 50 times, 80 per cent had a positive outlook on school.

“People understand the importance of sports, but having access to art is really important, too. We are not necessarily creating artists, but we are giving people the opportunity to think creatively. If you can think creatively, you can survive almost anything,” she said.

How to help:

Donations, both financial and supplies, can be dropped off at 616 Broadway. It’s the studio with the giant six-wheeled welded bicycle on the roof. Visitors to its website can make a financial gift on their credit card.

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