Celebrate 40 years of MAWA in 2024!

Happy Anniversary, HAAApy Anniversary

MAWA was founded in 1984, which means it has a big birthday coming up! We are busy planning a series of celebratory events to mark this milestone, including a special screening, an exhibition reflecting our history of mentorship and more.

Anniversaries are an opportunity not only to look back but to consider the future. After 40 years, what is this organization that so many of us hold dear? And what do we want it to become?

At its core, MAWA is an equity-seeking visual arts education centre. Some of us are old enough to remember being told that women can’t be serious artists, particularly women with children. We lived with the expectation that we should be muses and helpmates, supporting the careers of men in our lives, or if we must create, it would be craft or watercolours, métiers that were wrongly considered lesser. But we made our work anyway. Some of us had children. We became artists. For many of us, MAWA was key in repudiating patriarchal stereotypes by telling us, “Yes, you can.”

Sadly, this work is not done. The gender pay gap in Canada is presently 29%, which means that for every dollar a man earns, women are making 71¢. The disparity widens for those who face multiple barriers, including racialized women, Indigenous women and women with disabilities. Gender-based violence persists. Trans and non-binary people face discrimination, harassment and worse. Here on Main Street and far beyond, Indigenous women and girls continue to go missing and be murdered.

Equity is at the core of MAWA’s Vision Statement, reaffirmed in MAWA’s most recent Strategic Plan:

All people in the visual arts have full access to opportunities and achieve equal representation.

We all have a right to be seen, to be heard, and to express ourselves through the power of art.

MAWA’s anniversary activities will roll out throughout the year to come. We want to celebrate not just MAWA but the reason MAWA exists: art, artists, inclusion and justice for all.

Shawna Dempsey and Dana Kletke