Killarney played host to this year's Westman Juried Art Show this past weekend. A great turnout of art enthusiasts came to the local Legion, to see what Westman artists have been up to over the past year.

Sixty-five adult artists and 16 youth submitted their artwork to the annual exhibition, bring the total of pieces to over 100.

Talent from across the entire Westman Region was showcased through a variety of mediums; acrylic, watercolor and oil paint, pencil, colored-pencil and charcoal, fibre art and more!

Brandon artist, Barb Flemington and Winnipeg artist (and former Westman artist), Janet Shaw-Russell, were this year's jurors, each submitting a written commentary to the artists about each piece.  Artists were also welcome to speak with the jurors to hear more on how to improve their work.

Barb Flemington was thrilled with the response from the artists, and the public who came out to support them.

"It was a great success!  We've all been isolated because of Covid and this was the first show since the Covid lockdown.  Virtual galleries work well," she shares, "and they helped us.  I'm sure they will continue, but to actually see a piece of work in real makes a huge difference, it really does."

Flemington says it was a privilege to be asked to be an adjudicator for this year's show, to be able to view the often-hidden talent that is out there.

"You really get a sense as to what's going on out there in the rural areas, and the City of Brandon as well," she explains.  "So many of these people come to art through their love of art, their own personal expression of wanting to be creative, they are self-taught very often, they do workshops, they connect with other artists, they're hungry! This is what I would say, they're hungry!"

"This such a great opportunity for them to show their work," adds Flemington.  "This is a huge part of growing as an artist; showing your work, getting feedback."

"Having it outside of your studio is a really important thing as an artist.  You take it from that personal domain, where you're struggling with things and trying to make things work, and enjoying it, and then you put it in a setting where its on display to the public, and something magical happens."

Twenty pieces were selected to participate in The Travelling Gallery, and ten were selected to participate in the virtual Northern Art Show in Winnipeg in September.

Deciding which pieces are included in both exhibitions can be a daunting task for the jurors, as each piece is unique to its own with a combination of interest, passion, skill and often a variety of mediums.

Flemington says some pieces immediately jump out, "you just know the skill set of the artist and the way they can tell a story in their piece.  How they use the media is really important.  I think there is a kind of sophistication to work that gets picked for the Travelling Gallery in that it is a skillful handling of the media."

"But then the other aspects that make it work are it has a quality of an emotional impact," she adds.  "It comes from within that artist. That story is really true to them." 

Three pieces were directly related to the war in Ukraine, each one sharing the emotion of the artists, who they themselves, come from Ukraine.   "The woman that I spoke to, Maria, she said it helped her.  The work was very strong and it was chosen for the Travelling Gallery, and I think that as well as her unbelievable skill with colored pencils, it just sang with it that this was an emotional response to something."

"It's hard to put into words, how that works with art," note Flemington.  "Art is a visual medium and it does translate somehow and it does sing through the work."

For aspiring artists, Barb Flemington says one should pursue art mediums and subjects that are meaningful to the individual, but also to challenge oneself with new ideas, concepts and mediums.

"All subject matter can be beautiful art, but be true to yourself and go to the things you love, because that's where your expression will happen in the studio."

Barb Flemington is a visual artist, educator and advocate for the arts.  She has received awards from the Manitoba Arts Council, Association for Manitoba Archives and the Canada Council in support of her work.  She lives and works in her country studio near Brandon, MB.

Janet Shaw-Russell, a Winnipeg artist, called southwestern Manitoba home for 37 years.  During that time, se co-founded the art collective, Drawn Together, comprised of women artists from across the region.  Her multi-media artwork has been exhibited throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan, including the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, and the Estevan Art Gallery and Museum.  She is a Canada Council and Manitoba Arts Council grant recipient and former MAWA mentorship mentee.

Please listen to more of the interview with Barb Flemington and Betty Sawatzky below: