2017 Year in Review

2017 was a significant year for Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art. In August we presented STAGES: Drawing the Curtain, a series of temporary public sculptures and performances throughout Winnipeg featuring new work by nine international and local artists. In January we mounted the first Canadian solo exhibitions of American artists Angie Keefer and Fred Sandback. We are also extremely proud to have launched and completed three iterations of an intensive four-week youth program, Interpreting [Interrupting] Youth, in partnership with Just TV and the Broadway Neighborhood Centre, and expanded our Summer Institute into two sessions. These projects have greatly initiated and expanded partnerships, and as always, sought to broaden our community in the city and beyond.

Xaviera Simmons, LINE, detail view, 2017. Photo: Karen Asher.

Xaviera Simmons, LINE, detail view, 2017. Photo: Karen Asher.


In 2017 we presented five solo exhibitions and two impactful group shows, echoing contemporary art practice and concerns locally and globally. Our exhibitions reflected on convergences of material and socio-political concerns from formalism and space to economics and the global circulation of people and goods; communication and comedy; intersectional feminism and ecology.

In January Plug In ICA was thrilled to open exhibitions by two acclaimed American artists: A Samplng of Works by Fred Sandback, and FIRST CLASS, SECOND THOUGHTS, INTERMINABLE SWELL by Angie Keefer. For our spring exhibitions, Filipino-Canadian Artist Patrick Cruz covered our front gallery floor to ceiling in Titig Kayumanggi (Brown Gaze); and Winnipeg-based artist Ray Fenwick invited visitors into a psychedelic greenhouse for his first solo exhibition, A Greenhouse. Evening. For the duration of the summer, Montreal artist, Walter Scott’s site-specific vinyl piece, Blinky is Reading covered the expanse of our windows; and for 18 days in August nine artists engaged the city with installations, roving sculpture, performances and site-specific interventions. Our final exhibition of the year, Entering the Landscape is a contemplative group exhibition featuring 21 artists representing a breadth of politicized contemporary and iconic historical works that place the female or queer body in the landscape.

Installation view of Fred Sandback | A Sampling of Works at Plug In ICA, 2017. Photo: Karen Asher.

Partick Cruz, Titig Kayumanggi (Brown Gaze), mixed media installation (2017). Installation view. Photo: Karen Asher.

STAGES: Drawing the Curtain

Abbas Akhavan • Toronto | Pablo Bronstein • London, UK Erica Eyres • Glasgow | Toril Johannessen • Tromsø, Norway | Kara Hamilton • Toronto | Federico Herrero • San José, Costa Rica | Divya Mehra • Winnipeg | Krista Belle Stewart • Vancouver | Ron Tran • Vancouver

For this public exhibition, nine artists from Canada and abroad produced artworks that merged their material and theoretical concerns with reflections on the stage, different notions of “public” and “space”; and finally, the city itself as a performative site of fluctuating and active meaning. With the ambition to develop this project into a biennial, the launching of STAGES marks an exciting moment of growth for Plug In ICA.

Divya Mehra, Nobody pray for me, the road to hell is paved with good intentions (Mapping Identity: The Challenges of Immigrant Culture), Installation view. 2017. Photo: Karen Asher.

Jeneen Frei Njootli playing for Krista Belle Stewart, Potato Gardens Band, 2017. Photo: Karen Asher.

Jeneen Frei Njootli playing for Krista Belle Stewart, Potato Gardens Band, 2017. Photo: Karen Asher.


Winnipeg teens collaborated with artists to move,construct, and remix materials over the course of the year as part of the Youth Art Education Program.

Artists Freja Olafson, Janelle Tougas, and Robyn Adams designed workshops for our youth tours. Teens from Winnipeg schools learned about positive and negative space using their bodies to ‘make shapes’, constructed sculptures with found materials and considered land as storied material


During three sessions of Interpreting [Interrupting] Youth (IIY) launched in February of 2017, we engaged groups of 4-6 participants between the ages of 16 and 24. Over the duration of the programs, youth developed relationships with Plug In ICA’s staff and activities, engaged in dialogue with the exhibiting artists and reflected together on the exhibitions. The sessions culminate in a collaboratively produced short video that reflects their shared experience and interpretation. The final videos were publicly screened followed by moderated discussions. At the end of each session one youth is selected to return to Plug In ICA as a youth mentor, and all videos are available at:

Interpreting interrupting youth, Victor Ilunga (Left) and Birehanu (right) filming Angie Keefer's Second Thoughts, 2017

Victor Ilunga (Left) and Birehanu (right) filming Angie Keefer’s Second Thoughts, 2017


This year we expanded our Summer Institute into two sessions. Renowned writer, publisher, editor and artist, Chris Kraus led the spring session with guests Natasha Stagg and Robert Dewhurst. While the summer session,Wendy’s Book Club, was facilitated by emerging artist, performer, writer and graphic novelist Walter Scott, and feminist artist, writer and curator, Niki Little. Both sessions took up writing as an expanded field, incorporating elements of critical confession, reflection and artistry. The Summer Institute included a dense roster of daily discussions and formal assignments as well as internal and public critiques and presentations. Special guests included: Maya Ben-David, Tau Lewis, Guy Madden, Jean Randolph and Becca Taylor. For a full overview of the participants, their work, and the events, visit:

Sculpture workshop for Wendy Book Club, Summer Institute Session II, July 2017. Photo: Luther Konadu.


In 2017 we offered French tours for every exhibition and continued to develop our evolving Respondent Series, inviting professionals from many fields of study or practice. This year we brought in economists, art historians, musicians, curators and other artists to respond to our exhibitions.

Including tours, talks, screenings and performances, Plug In ICA presented over 50 events in 2017. Notable programs include a talk by New York-based artist, writer, educator and curator, Howie Chen; Manitoba Economist Evelyn Forget; Art Historian Edward Vazquez; cat’s cradle workshop by local artist Hannah Doucet, Tagalog tour by Patrick Cruz and performances by Pastoralia and Casey Mecija.

During STAGES: Drawing the Curtain, artist Abbas Akhavan collaborated with local drag queens and kings for his piece Variations on a Monument, presenting eight drag performances at Winnipeg’s Bonnycastle Park fountain; while British artist Pablo Bronstein collaborated with choreographer Rosalie Wahlfrid to present a site-specific dance piece: Peony Unfurling at Various Speeds in Shopping Mall at Fort Garry Place; Divya Mehra’s backlit ‘Om’ moved through the city on a flat-bed truck for Nobody pray for me, the road to hell is paved with good intentions (Mapping Identity: The Challenges of Immigrant Culture); and Krista Belle Stewart invited Jeneen Frei Njootli and Laura Ortman to perform in the Bay basement for Potato Gardens Band.

Complimenting our current exhibition, Entering the Landscape, we were delighted to present meaningful programming including a performance and clay figure building workshops by Jaime Black; artist talks by Lori Blondeau and A.K. Burns; a Respondent Talk by writer, historian and professor, Dr. Sherry Farrell Racette; and the screening and discussion of After Birth, 2017by artist collective The Ephemerals.

Walter Scott, Blinky is Reading (2017). Installation view. Photo: Karen Asher.

Chris Kraus, reading at Plug In ICA in conjunction with Summer Institute Session I. Photo: Luther Konadu.

Chris Kraus, reading at Plug In ICA in conjunction with Summer Institute Session I. Photo: Luther Konadu.


Plug In extended out of the gallery walls to present challenging and dynamic projects.

With STAGES: Drawing the Curtain being our most far reaching offsite project, we also collaborated with the New Music Festival producing the site-specific work Quiet Things, by Suzie Smith; and an expanded cinema piece, Spectral Repair by Doreen Girard. We also increased our commitment to education and research by recording and publishing the majority of our talks and performances including all of the STAGES speaker series, to our video archives:

Suzie Smith, Quiet Forms, 2017.

Suzie Smith, Quiet Forms, 2017.


In April 2017 we published Eleanor Bond: Mountain of Shame and are in the final stages of printing a companion text to the 2015 exhibition Yesterday Was Once Tomorrow. We are also working with Filip publishing to co-produce four STAGES publications. These will include transcripts of Toril Johannessen’s audio drama in three languages: English, French and Norwegian; a supplement by STAGES curator and Executive Director, Jenifer Papararo; a visual essay by the collaborative duo grupa o.k.; and a text by curator and theorist, Candice Hopkins.


The success of this year is due in large part to the encouragement of our members, the support of our sponsors and the trust of our donors. Vital contributions for our programming also come from core funding made by the Canada Council, the Manitoba Arts Council, and the Winnipeg Arts Council. In early 2017 galvanizing member Michael Nesbitt made it possible to bring Fred Sandback’s powerful exhibition to the Institute. And in October, the Royal Bank of Canada signed on as a lead sponsor of our Summer Institute program.

The inaugural edition of STAGES: Drawing the Curtain would not have been possible without New Chapters funding and the support of The Winnipeg Foundation; the generosity and trust of Susan Glass, Arni Thorsteinson, Alpha Masonry, Daniel Friedman and Rob Dalgliesh; as well as major sponsorships from William F White and Alt Hotel. This year also marks the end of a generous two year funding cycle by the Warhol Foundation for the Arts. Their contribution to our programming cannot be overstated. And finally, our annual Gala and Art Auction was a spectacular success due to the artists who generously donated their work, our presenting sponsor, Montrose Mortgage, our champagne sponsor Tony Mitousis at CGM Engineering, and co-chairs David Carr and Silvester Komlodi. For a complete list of our Directors Circle, members and donors visit:

There is more! We are excited to announce the development of our new bookstore manager position for which we hired Erin Josephson-Laidlaw who is happy to help with all your book-related questions, needs and ideas. We provided two paid internship positions through the Young Canada Works program, and gained a number of dedicated volunteers including two young interns through the Maples Met school program ‘learning through internship’. We continue to imagine new possibilities for our space, which includes an exciting re-design of our bookstore, offering enhanced seating designed by Thom Fougere Studio. In November we also reimagined our annual Gala and Art Auction, hosting it in the basement of the Hudson’s Bay building, which was a huge success thanks to the work of our staff coordinator and gala committee.

In 2017, we said farewell to our beloved grant writer Graham Asmundson for whom we are excited for the opportunities that await him. In his place we are fortunate to welcome the talented and skilled arts writer, Tom Kohut. We are deeply saddened by the unexpected loss of cherished board member and artist Bernie Miller who served for 9 years. His absence is deeply felt at Plug In ICA and throughout the Winnipeg arts community.

We will leave our year in review here to allow us to re-envision our future and invite new members into our fold. We Thank You for being part of the Plug In ICA community and for making this an unforgettable year. We have big ambitions for 2018!

Erica Eyes, Head, 2017. Installation view, Gala 2017. Photo: Khammy Phanthavong

Erica Eyes, Head, 2017. Installation view, Gala 2017. Photo: Khammy Phanthavong

Plug In ICA BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Sotirios Kotoulas (President), Meeka Walsh (Vice President), Marlene Stern (Secretary), Jordon Sodomsky (Treasurer), Daniel Friedman (Board Member Emeritus and Financial Advisor), Gerry Atwell, Irene Bindi, David Carr, Brad German, Serena Keshsavjee, Silvester Komlodi, Samuel McLaughlin, Julie Nagam.

Plug In ICA STAFF: Angela Forget (Operations Coordinator), Erin Josephson-Laidlaw (Bookstore Manager), Sarah Nesbitt (Assistant Curator), Jenifer Papararo (Executive Director), Johanna Poortenaar (Gallery Attendant), Theo Sims (Head Preparator).

VOLUNTEERS: Lisa Ayow, Madeline Boguch, Patrick Burek, Jaden Correia, Luther Konadu, Mathew Lacrosse, Michael Okenwa, Patrica Perez Rabelo, Joel Jae Serrano, Tessa Stewart.

INTERPRETING YOUTH MENTORS: Gideon Kitsa, Victor Ilunga, Niko Lapierre.