There are one hundred and seven Hutterite colonies in Manitoba and those colonies are home to a talented enclave of visual artists. I recently visited the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery in Winnipeg to see Our (Hutterite) Life in Art, a new exhibit of artwork by members of some of Manitoba’s Hutterite communities.
When I worked as a columnist for the Faith Page of the Winnipeg Free Press I was invited to spend a day on a Hutterite colony. What an enlightening experience that was! Many of my preconceived ideas about Hutterite communities were dispelled. But that was 15 years ago, and in an article in the Winnipeg Free Press last year I discovered that Hutterite colonies have continued to change.
There are different kinds of colonies. Some remain more conservative and don’t encourage much interaction with the outside world whereas others are much more progressive, offering comprehensive education programs, and a give and take with the wider community around the colony.
One change is that some colonies now allow access to computers, as this digital art piece illustrates. While televisions and radios are forbidden in Hutterite communities, computers have been necessary to keep the various business ventures of colonies competitive and are found in many colony schools. The Crystal Springs community near Ste. Agathe, Man. allows families to have home computers and cell phones. There is even a Hutterian Brethern website that provides lots of great information about Hutterites and their various communities in North America.
Since 1995 some Manitoba colonies have been sending members to the University of Brandon for teacher training so that by now there are more than 80 Hutterite educators qualified to teach the provincial curriculum in colony schools.
The exhibit currently on display at the Mennonite Heritage Gallery was organized by Jesse Hofer of the Silverwinds Community. It includes work by both school children and adult artists, and offers the viewer a chance to see what life in a Hutterite community is like from a unique perspective.
One of the things that delighted me about the exhibit at the MHC Gallery was the wide variety of mediums used. There are watercolours, linocuts, acrylic paintings, digital artworks, coloured pencil drawings, seed mosaics, plasticine pieces, pottery, wood carvings, comics and graphite drawings.
There is also artwork in the exhibit from many different Hutterite communities in Manitoba.
The art pieces you see here are only a tiny sample of the wealth of wonderful work on view at the gallery. The exhibit runs until Nov. 9, so you still have time to see it.
MaryLou Driedger is a retired English and journalism teacher who lives in Winnipeg. She blogs at maryloudriedger2.wordpress.com, where this post originally appeared.