Gurpreet Sehra with NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre
Program: WITH ART Project
Location: NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre, 103-61 Tyndall Avenue
Medium: Acrylic paint, textile, ceramic tile
Western Canada’s first community food centre opened in Winnipeg’s Inkster neighbourhood in March 2015. The centre is a project of NorWest Co-op Community Health, who chose artist Gurpreet Sehra to partner with to create a community public art project through the Winnipeg Arts Council’s WITH ART program.
Throughout 2015, Sehra got to know the NorWest community by facilitating free art classes in the new food centre. Together they explored different artistic techniques and generated ideas for a collaborative artwork. The classes filled up quickly and had a waiting list, so the Co-op staff helped the artist survey other community members about their neighbourhood, the food centre, and what kind of art they wanted to see in their community.
Once a concept was devised, community members met weekly to paint in the NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre, often surrounded by cooking classes, zumba, and community lunches. Together they painted 119 textile-covered ceramic tiles to create a 7’ x 17’ mural now permanently installed inside the centre.
The imagery is based on a map of the neighbourhood from the early 1970s when the NorWest Co-op was formed, and centres on the newly opened community food centre, with bold colours representing current demographics. It speaks to the Co-op’s enduring presence in this evolving community. The artwork’s title Social Seed is a play on the agricultural idea of nurturing, mapping and measuring relationships/flows of diverse seeds. It references the agricultural land division that shaped Winnipeg’s map, as well as makes a connection to food and the diverse make-up of the community that meets at this neighbourhood hub.
Social Seed was celebrated at a community lunch on May 12, 2017.
Gurpreet Sehra is a local multidisciplinary artist who works in traditional and non-traditional media: painting, printmaking, video and conceptual installation. Through her work, she is interested in exploring conceptions of gender, as related to Sikh-Punjabi diasporic communities. She was born and raised in the greater Toronto area and now calls Winnipeg home.
Access NorWest Co-op Community Health provides education, community development, counseling, early learning, medical care and childcare programming in the Inkster community in Winnipeg. Founded in 1972, the NorWest Co-op currently provides service to 32,000 people including new immigrants and refugees, Indigenous and Metis groups, children and seniors, at risk youth, women experiencing or exiting domestic violence, persons living with chronic disease and low income individuals.
The NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre (CFC) is a project of NorWest Co-op and is operated in partnership with Community Food Centres Canada. The CFC includes a commercial kitchen, dining area for 80+ community members, meeting rooms, community garden and outdoor gathering space. It is a welcoming space where people come together to share a good meal, join a cooking group, grow a garden, learn about healthy eating and get active on issues in the community.