GerryFest – 1st Annual Festival dedicated to the life and work of Gerry Atwell
August 14th-16th, 2020 at the St. Norbert Arts Centre
Music – Art – Theatre – Friendship
Featuring Indian City – Super Duty Tough Work – and many other artistic friends of Gerry Atwell
Recent events around the globe have helped to refocus everyone’s attention on cultural equity. Many of us are asking ourselves “What would Gerry say”? Gerry Atwell’s work as a multi-disciplinary artist was dedicated to expressing the Black Canadian experience and the empowerment of others in need. GerryFest is dedicated to the journey of Gerry’s life and how we as a community of caring friends and family can continue that work to finally end racism.
GerryFest is a fundraiser for the Gerry Atwell Memorial Mentorship Endowment Fund – dedicated to encouraging young people of diverse backgrounds, who many not have opportunities and access to pursue their artistic dreams. Just as Gerry did throughout his lifetime. This fund is being held in trust at the Winnipeg Foundation through the St. Norbert Arts Centre.
While this is an invitation-only event as the Friday evening, the Gallery and site of the St. Norbert Arts Centre will be open all weekend with an exhibition of the Life and Times of Gerry Atwell and hands-on art making stations.
The Gerry Atwell Memorial Mentorship Fund
Inspired by Gerry’s lifelong commitment to mentoring young artists, the Atwell Family has established the Gerry Atwell Memorial Mentorship Fund. The Fund will provide support for senior artists of all disciplines to work with talented youth from communities of need. The granting program will be administered by the St. Norbert Arts Centre at the Atwell family’s direction and in collaboration with community organizations that were near and dear to Gerry’s heart.
Donations may be made during the Celebration of Life by cash, Paypal pledges or by cheque or e-transfer directly to the St. Norbert Arts Centre – Gerry Atwell Memorial Fund. Please contact SNAC at 204-269-0564 or firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail: Box 175, Station St. Norbert, Winnipeg, MB R3V 1L7
Tax receipts will be issued for donations of more than $15.00. This fund will remain open for ongoing donations.
A memorial Celebration of the Life of Gerry Atwell will be held on December 8th at 1pm at the Burton Cummings Theatre. The St. Norbert Arts Centre Board, staff and community members are deeply saddened by his sudden passing and wish to commemorate Gerry’s significant contribution to SNAC’s development.
Up until his death and dating back to 1995, Gerry held numerous and continuous roles of Programming Director, Board Chair, Artistic Director, Curator-in-Residence and Artist-in-Resident. Throughout his almost 25 year tenure at the St. Norbert Arts Centre, Gerry was best known as a generous creative collaborator, an interdisciplinary intercultural curator, a strategic thinker, a financial planner and most of all, a devout communitarian.
Gerry first began his connection to SNAC as an artist-in-residence with a major commission for an interdisciplinary theatre piece, Soul in Ice. The piece tells the story of his grandmother’s experience growing up as a student at the St. Norbert Convent, highlighting the Atwell family’s deep roots in St. Norbert and displaying the complete range of Gerry’s artistic abilities.
From that first project, Gerry became a SNAC board member and embarked on a series of projects that can be thought of as expressing the core values of SNAC – a socially-responsible, culturally-diverse, interdisciplinary model of contemporary cultural institution. He co-created many Music-in-the-Ruins performances, gallery concerts as well as having a handing in most major SNAC projects such as the Tibetan Residency and R. Murray Schaffer’s Spirit Garden.
At SNAC, Gerry developed what would become his signature method of working with inner-city youth, igniting their creative empowerment through SNAC’s DepARTures program. He co-created a conference, Involving Culture and Evolving Cultures (2003) on the role that inter-cultural expression can play in delivering the curriculum to school-aged children. He co-hosted a forum on community art and subsequent publication called Front Line Art. His Cultural Equity Report should continue to be required reading for all cultural workers.
His successful bid for the coveted Curator of Cultural Diversity at Canada Council gave him a year-long full-time residency at SNAC that he titled, The Last Stop (2001-2). The term, Last Stop, refers to the fact that Canada was the last stop on the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves. Through this time, Gerry was able to commission new works from artists from across Canada and establish himself as an art writer. At this time, he conceived of a database, virtual space, meeting place for Black-Canadian Artists and more importantly for all the institutions and curators who want to connect with this important voice. While this project was not able to come to fruition, it is still a much needed tool to facilitate a transition towards equality that could be useful for all marginalized voices.
“We recognize the problems caused by the hierarchy of races and its connection to community and world peace. We seek to soothe its ails, support its voices and see through a plan to ameliorate the situation. Of course, we all are aware that the art world has not made great gains on the problem of systemic racism either.”
In recent years, Gerry’s ease of bringing together talented artists, giving them a concept and letting loose creatively in gallery-concert productions was at its finest in his most recent position as SNAC Program Director which he has held since 2016. He always loved to co-create original and collaborative performances with some of Winnipeg’s most talented artists and musicians who were also his friends – as it would be impossible to work with Gerry and not quickly become his friend.