Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA)

Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) is a Winnipeg-based artist-run centre that encourages the intellectual and creative development of women and non-binary people in the visual arts by providing education and critical dialogue. It is a thriving, intergenerational community devoted to shared knowledge and resources.

Since its inception in 1984, mentorship has been the core activity of the organization and the key strategy in redressing gender inequality. Senior artists share experiences, networks and know-how with emerging artists, ensuring that each artist does not have to “reinvent the wheel.” This model of art education has proven to be nothing short of transformative, and many artists credit MAWA with being pivotal in their professional careers. MAWA has provided mentorships for hundreds of mentees in the year-long Foundation Mentorship Program, including some of the most esteemed artists in the country. For example, Reva Stone, recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Visual and Media Art (the highest honour bestowed upon an artist in Canada), is a former MAWA mentee.

MAWA also provides other learning opportunities, such as artist talks, discussion groups, workshops in particular artistic skills, professional development workshops, lectures, critical writing opportunities, studio visits with established curators, film screenings, showcases, panel discussions, an artist in residence program and a resource centre/lending library. Programs are led by leaders of a wide variety of backgrounds and experience to ensure diverse points of view, spirited dialogue and a welcoming environment for everyone.

Special MAWA projects of the past few years include: the “Who Counts?” national symposium (2014); creation and publication of Desire Change, the first textbook about feminist art in Canada (2017); Resilience, a cross-country exhibition of works by 50 Indigenous women artists on billboards (2018); and Resilience: 50 Indigenous Art Cards and Teaching Guide, a tool to help educators K-12 integrate Indigeneity into the classroom through art.

Up to 300 paid members, 350 volunteers and 5,000 participants engage in MAWA programming and events each year. MAWA is an active hub where the ideals of community-building are enacted, making the art world a fairer place. It advocates for women and non-binary visual artists. It inspires creativity and reflection upon issues of equality of all kinds.

MAWA is a welcoming space, in which artists and the general public can learn and explore together.
“MAWA taught me I don’t have to be someone who I think I’m supposed to be, but who I am. And that’s really empowering. MAWA has given me confidence. to navigate the world of a professional artist.” –Kelly Ruth, program participant.

“It’s small and big things: laughter, joy, conversations; mothers, children, art; head nods and vigorous waves from across the room; and the nervous energy of emerging artists meeting the calm strong confidence of established artists. Ultimately, MAWA is the friends I have made, the work I have made, the knowledge and opportunities I’ve been gifted.” –Becca Taylor, program participant.

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