GAP Inc. History
In June of 1998, Steve Wilson met a first year Fine Arts student named Pat Lazo in a small garage in Elmwood. Pat was answering an ad that Steve had placed in a local skateboard shop, looking for graffiti artists that would be willing to paint large conventional style wall murals for commercial clients, as well as spearhead a new graffiti-on-canvas art movement. Eventually, 11 young graffiti artists joined Pat to work out of a makeshift studio in that same garage in Elmwood. They prepared for their first public showing of their graffiti-on-canvas and 3 months later, on the September long weekend, at the music festival at The Forks, they premiered the first ever graffiti style art exhibit. It was an astounding success. Not only did the studio sell 6 paintings, but the people that they met served as a foundation for a network of support that the gallery still enjoys today.
Following the success of the first exhibit, it was decided that there was not only interest in what was being done, but also a willing and supportive consumer market for this style of art. In January of 1999, the gallery moved to its current location at 109 Higgins Avenue. Later that year, in April, to a standing room only crowd, the Graffiti Gallery had its official grand opening.
In late fall of that year a small group of supporters met to discuss the impact, role and direction of the organization. One of its three main focuses would continue to be the gallery. As an art gallery it was pioneering a cutting edge, contemporary art movement that was appealing to an initially young audience (13 – 21 years). By offering emerging young artists an opportunity to show their work; by establishing ourselves as a gallery to facilitate those artists, the gallery was able to fill a gap/void in the arts and cultural worlds. It was able to bring together the artists with curators, gallery directors and university professors under one roof each time an exhibit was opened. As a result of those events, 13 of our artists over the years have enrolled in the Fine Arts program at the University of Manitoba or Creative Communications at RRCC. Eight have graduated. Over the years more than 250 emerging artists have performed or shown their work through the gallery.
We are pleased to note that Pat Lazo has remained with the gallery as our curator and artistic director and that his growing skills have established the Graffiti Gallery as a premier gallery of its kind within not only the city of Winnipeg, but the country. His hard work and dedication have brought many high caliber artists and exhibits to the city that would otherwise never have been seen. He has curated or assisted in curating exhibits for hundreds of emerging young, contemporary artists in all fields of artistic endeavour, from music to live performance to painting to sculpture and including a number of art openings/exhibits by high school youth in the neighbourhood.
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