Indigenous Art And Heritage On Display At Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre

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Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre three-story brick building with sculpture of a circle of seven tall pole each with a carved animal on it in front of the building
The Heritage Collection at Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada contains over 1,000 pieces of artwork and cultural artifacts

The Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre (MICEC) is a not-for-profit educational organization promoting awareness and understanding of Indigenous cultures. Formed in 1975 to proactively reclaim Indigenous cultures, languages, and education, it is the largest cultural education centre in Manitoba.

It is known for its programming, which includes language classes, presentations, and art and craft workshops, its lending library of over 14,000 items, and its Heritage Collection of over 1,000 pieces of artwork and other artifacts of historical and cultural importance. The Heritage Collection is the focus of this post. Pieces are on display for public viewing in the centre’s beautiful gathering space.

Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre Building

First, a few notes about the heritage building housing the centre. The building was originally constructed in 1902 for All People’s Mission, a Methodist Church organization founded in 1892 to address needs of recently arrived immigrants. The mission closed in 1978 and MICEC acquired the building.

An extensive renovation was done in 2010. The building was lowered so visitors would no longer have to climb a set of stairs to gain access. The main façade was reworked to include a large glass terrarium.

Indigenous centre space with high ceiling, curved wall under mezzanine level, and artwork on display
This photo of the gathering space was taken during the celebration on April 4, 2023 for the centre’s re-opening after being closed for three years because of the pandemic

Inside, a welcoming two-story room with dark oak floors, almond-coloured walls, and light streaming through two levels of windows invites you in. The second-story was turned into a mezzanine level overlooking the main gathering space.  The renovation, designed by non-Indigenous Winnipeg-based architect Wins Bridgman, earned a Heritage Winnipeg Preservation Award.

Star blanket design in wood floor at the Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre

The star pattern in the floor is made with many Manitoba woods and is inspired by the seven-pointed star blanket pattern, which in Ojibwe teachings carried the seven original clans and the seven grandmother/grandfather teachings.

Sculpture in front of Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre consists of seven large poles tilting inward in a circle with carved animals resting on shelve partway up the poles

A dramatic sculpture in front of the building greets you before you even enter the building. The circle of seven large poles tilted inward represents Manitoba Indigenous languages. Animals on the poles symbolize aspects of Indigenous culture.

Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre Heritage Collection

Curved almond-coloured wall with ledge below mezzanine floor covered with Indigenous art and artifacts

Pieces from the Heritage Collections are on display in the main gathering space and throughout the building. This one-of-a-kind collection includes objects in contemporary and traditional forms. Among the artwork and historically and culturally important artifacts, you’ll find paintings, carvings, clothing, regalia, crafts, medicines, tools, documents, photographs, and more.

Indigenous art and artifacts on display on almond-coloured two-story high walls with shelve midway displaying more items
Large windows in the two-story-high gathering space let in lots of light to shine on the displays
Shelving in a corner displaying Indigenous art pieces
A corner display
Curved wall with ledge below a mezzanine level with assorted Indigenous artifacts on display, such as canoe, snowshoes, poles, drums, and art
Ledge on wall below mezzanine level provides more display space
Indigenous painting on a wall display
Art on the wall of stairway leading to mezzanine level
Library shelves with Indigenous art displayed on the ends
Part of the library on the mezzanine floor
View of a large room with Indigenous art on display from a mezzanine level
Looking down at main gathering space from mezzanine level
Alcove with window to outside and starry night dome in ceiling

One of the most inviting spaces in the centre is an alcove on the mezzanine level. A dome in the ceiling contains a painting by Oji-Cree artist Shawna Grapentine. The space has been used as a children’s reading area, but on my April 2023 visit it was used to display more of the Heritage Collection.

Starry night painting by Shawna Grapentine in domed ceiling
Dome painting by Shawna Grapentine
Chest decorated with Indigenous art and 2 child mannequins wearing beading clothing at Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre
Six framed moon line drawings on display on a light coloured wall
Moon line drawings

MICEC didn’t set out to amass the collection. It started with a blank wall at a former location. A visiting artist convinced them to buy a set of six drawing to decorate the wall. Those original moon line drawings are still part of the collection.

The following was displayed among the works on the walls:

It was during the seventies that the Indian Group of Seven was founded, fighting for equal access to art funding and catapulting Indigenous art into the modern time. Prior to their introduction, Indigenous art was considered a thing of the past or thought to be non-existent. MICEC’s collection is a contradiction of that sentiment.

MICEC’s collection is indeed a contradiction of that sentiment.

Visiting Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre

The Heritage Collection is on display throughout the MICEC building. You can drop in or book a tour to view the collection. Given that the centre just re-opened to the public in early April after being closed for three years because of the pandemic, I’d recommend calling ahead to verify hours.

To celebrate the re-opening, MICEC plans to display the pieces in its collection in a series of 10 exhibits over the year. The photos in this post are from the opening exhibit Walking with Our History: MICEC Through the Years, curated by Danielle Mason and Kayleigh Speirs.

Visit the Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre site for more information.

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