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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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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