Finding its home on Wyandotte Street at the Artspeak Gallery for more than 20 years, Arts Council Windsor and Region (ACWR) consists of around 200 members and the number is only increasing. ACWR is a non-profit charity organization that connects the arts to the community
Talysha Bujold-Abu is the organization’s gallery manager and membership coordinator and also an illustrator. A few years ago she moved from Hamilton to earn her Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Windsor. ACWR offered a week-long group exhibition and free membership, and that’s where Bujold-Abu met Julie Tucker, ACWR’s director of public programs and advocacy.
“I really liked the open and expressive space. [It was] welcoming. You don’t see a lot of galleries that ask you to come in and participate,” Bujold-Abu states.
ACWR pays artists for work and Bujold-Abu was overjoyed when they commissioned her to paint a mural across the front window. She practised painting a strawberry on the back window that still lives there today. After her mural was complete, she applied for her current job
Tucker believes that because “the majority of the staff and board members are artists, [they] are able to support artists the best.”
Bujold-Abu loves how the space allows “artists to bring their art out from their studios and show people, rather than creating and stacking.”
Glen Donaldson, an ACWR member, is grateful that his mural-sized paintings have been exhibited at the Artspeak Gallery.
“I have had some pieces in Gibson, Artcite, and now Nancy Johns Gallery for their membership show. Here, here, here, and here,” Donaldson says, pointing around the room. “I fill the walls here. You’re inspired every day to do stuff. You wake up, you have to do something.” Right now, Donaldson has around 200 to 300 pieces in his basement studio. For work, Donaldson paints airplanes at Windsor airport, he’s painted most of the wall murals on Drouillard Street, and he also paints cars and guitars.
“A lot of members wear a lot of different hats,” Bujold-Abu says. When an artist exhibits at the gallery, the space is entirely theirs, with help from the staff. “You be the artist and you put it up,” Bujold-Abu explains. “You take it down and you fix the walls and the next artist comes in. There’s a lot of working together- when you fix the walls; you are fixing it for the next person.” This routine is a thread that passes from one artist to the next, linking those in the community
Sometimes, ACWR will partner with another organization and offer the space for free. In September, they partner with the collective The Artists of Colour.
“This group talks about race, identity, and what it means to be a person of colour,” Bujold-Abu says. “We offer them a week-long exhibition for free to give them the space to present in the Walker- ville community. [This sharing] diversifies our understanding of art and the presentation of what [kind of] art is being given to the commu- nity because everybody deserves that space to be documented, shown, and exhibited.”
ACWR, along with other local businesses, also recently put on Cultural Industry Day for students that presented arts-related jobs. A graffiti artist, car designer, comic book writer, and therapeutic clown educated on how “arts isn’t just one direction and that there’s a lot of space to follow the arts if that’s your passion.”
Tucker celebrates that the students really responded. “They saw [graffiti artist] Denial’s murals and then they got to hear him talk about them and his path and how it’s not straightforward and how his schooling fed into his career. You can say, I want to be an artist when I grow up, but it’s all of these other things that come into your life. It’s not a direct path. They build their career through education and terrible jobs.”
ACWR also hosts professional development workshops and anyone in the community is welcome. And this isn’t just for the visual arts community. ACWR supports all artists: musicians, writers, theatre practitioners, video performers, etc
Being a member for $35 a year gives you a weekly Art Notes newsletter, curated by Paul Napigkit (assistant outreach coordinator), that informs you about workshop days, calls, auditions, and other arts programming in other spaces across the country.
ACWR’s next big event is windsor HEAT in July. Members exhibit their work at the same time as the Walkerville Art Walk, and hopefully sell some of their pieces while meeting new people and old friends in the community.
Donaldson hopes you come out to support and be a part of ACWR. “There is so much amazing talent in Windsor. There is support here.”