We live in a world with so much creativity and passion. Unfortunately, however, there is unequal access to tools and guidance to help people achieve their creative goals. Art is a therapy, can help reform people, and can bring joy to others. The Graffiti Gallery, also known as Graffiti Art Programming Inc. or GAP, sees the power of art and has worked to help others learn how to use art in their life.
1. Tell us a bit about the Graffiti Gallery! How did it get started?
The Graffiti Gallery is a not-for-profit youth art centre encouraging self-expression in various art forms. The gallery started out in the Point Douglas Neighborhood in the director’s garage about 20 years ago! Created by Stephen Wilson and Pat Lazo, the two became acquainted after Pat replied to an advertising poster Stephen had put up looking for a graffiti artist.
Originally the gallery was just an art gallery until they developed a bigger space on Higgins St – which happened to be the old pickle factory! After this bigger space was developed and the gallery itself grew, they added new programs and art workshops where youth could join as well. One of the objectives was restorative justice: instead of just locking people away, they wanted to create something that could prevent the crime from occurring in the first place and to help direct individuals at risk into areas of the arts.
The Graffiti Gallery provides a safe place for people to explore the arts and gain access to resources that would be unavailable to them financially. Ultimately, it’s a platform for emerging artists to get their foot in the door and learn how to use the arts as a tool for life.
2. Are there any specific campaigns, projects, or initiatives that Winnipeggers should know about?
The Graffiti Gallery hosts a lot of different programs, events, and other showings! For example:
Downtown Portage- located in the skywalk- (studio 393)
- Free workshops for ages 13-30
- older youth location drop-in studio
- Art, dance, music, film, and photography satellite sites
Graffiti Gallery located on Higgins- Monday to Fridays from 4-8pm
- Gallery showings- GAP frequently show emerging and professional artists pieces
- Workshops offered to organizations, schools, or groups at different locations at different rates.
- Mentoring youth/young people
- ART, short for Street Art, is free programming along Winnipeg’s North end and Downtown communities, where local artists join kids and youth in creating various forms of art.
3. Can you tell us a story from someone who has benefitted from the Graffiti Gallery?
There are so many stories that could be told. One of our staff started here at age 12 and has stayed throughout the years in most of our programming and has basically become family. He became part of the staff when he got older, and has worked alongside with us for these past few years, winning awards and representing the Graffiti Gallery through travel and events. He’s accomplished so much and were proud to have someone like that on our team.
4. What is one of your favorite things about Winnipeg?
My favorite thing would have to be the grittiness – people are proud but not ignorant, they are tough and hold their ground. We are kind of in the middle of nowhere with crazy weather changes, yet Winnipeg doesn’t make it feel like that.
5. What do you think is a big human rights issue that Winnipeg, as a city, needs to address?
Providing safer places to youth, treating young people with respect, and not talking down to them because they’re kids. I think Winnipeg, and all of Manitoba needs to work on discrimination and racism. There is a serious issue with respect and we need to change the way we interact as people.
6. If the Graffiti Gallery was given a $1 million dollar donation right now, what is one way you would consider using it?
Well, we could rip through a million quick. It’s hard to say as we’re always needing more equipment and other things we could use. One thing that would be helpful is a vehicle to transport equipment and people to our different locations or events taking place. We’re lucky for the support we do have, and anything can help.