Some of Winnipeg’s most cutting-edge, modern art has found a home in a newly renovated building that is 120 years old.
Aceartinc., an artist-run contemporary art gallery founded in 1983, unveiled its new 3,100-square foot space in the Carriage Works building at 206 Princess St., Friday.
Space2, a Winnipeg company run by Shelley and Mark Buleziuk that specializes in heritage building redevelopment, began converting two heritage buildings into one in 2019 in a $17-million partnership with CentreVenture Development Corp., the city-owned agency that focuses on downtown projects.
All three organizations were eager to show off Aceartinc.’s new digs, which has large windows that allow in natural light and gazes from curious passers-by, and its inaugural exhibition, Among the Falling Stars: Megwe-aya’iing anangoog gaa-bangishimowaad, by Métis artist Michel Dumont.
Aceartinc., which used to be on the second floor of 290 McDermot Ave., will be transformed by the new spot, board chair Allison Yearwood said.
“You had to know someone who knew that Ace was in the building when we were on McDermot,” she said. “Being able to let people just find us on their own and be like ‘Hey what’s that cool thing, come on in.’ That’s a game-changer.”
Aceartinc.’s new main-floor space removes accessibility issues that plague second- or third-floor galleries common in Exchange District buildings that were early in the 20th century.
That allowed Dumont, who is disabled, to easily enter and set up the exhibition, which include Indigenous-themed sculptures of bears, beavers and other animals made from Italian ceramic tile. They come in a rainbow of colours that also speak to his life as a queer, two-spirited survivor of intergenerational trauma originating from Indian day schools.
“We’re finally wheelchair-accessible, which is a huge thing,” Yearwood said. “Letting people come in the way they want to come in is so important, especially how we’re living now, being representational.”
Carriage Works includes 77 loft-style apartments, owned by Space2; and a Harrison Coffee location.
CentreVenture continues to seek a tenant for a vacant 850-square-foot gallery space in the building.
About half of the apartments have been leased since that part of the project opened Feb. 1, Mark Buleziuk said.
The Carriage Works redevelopment had construction delays in the fall of 2019 after structural problems were discovered in one of its buildings, the Thomas Scott Memorial Orange Hall. It was considered unsafe and threatened another of the project’s heritage building, the McLaughlin Carriage Building, which was built in 1902.
Buleziuk called it “a bit of a catastrophe.”
“One thing that’s interesting about these historic buildings is that you’re already working within the confines of a structure,” he said.
Angela Mathieson, president and chief executive officer of CentreVenture, said the Carriage Works project is the agency’s most unique collaboration in the past 20 years.
She imagines the gallery, which is next door to the Red River College Exchange District campus, will get plenty of foot traffic as students walk by to visit the coffee shop.
The gallery is near the corner of Princess and Ross Avenue, near Chinatown, and Yearwood says it will add activity to a quiet part of the Exchange.
“It’s kind of exciting that the artists are the ones who go in first and everyone else will follow,” Yearwood says.
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.