Showcasing the Faces of Winkler

Don Friesen is one of eleven people chosen to be in the Faces of Winkler exhibit at Winkler Arts and Culture. (LAUREN MACGILL, Winkler Times)

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Eleven of Winkler’s residents have had their likenesses captured for the latest exhibition at the art gallery.

This year is the third annual Faces of Winkler, an exhibit put on by Winkler Arts & Culture, that showcases a variety of the people who call Winkler their home.

Tomm Penner came up with the idea for the show and has been putting it on. “Every year I am astonished at the response to people when they see these individuals captured for the first time,” he said. “It’s so emotional because everybody has an incredible story. You could pick any 12 people and represent them on these walls and it would be a powerful story.”

This year, 11 Winkler residents were chosen to be part of the exhibit. About 90 people came to the kick-off on March 21.

“To see people crying and laughing and enjoying their time and getting to know these local individuals and artists and photographers, I find so much joy in that,” Penner said.

Each face is assigned an artist and a photographer, who work with the subject to portray them.

Once their pieces and photos are ready, they are put up in the art gallery for people to see. “The faces have never seen the photos, they’ve never seen the art,” Penner said. “The artists have never seen the photo, the photographers have never seen the art. It just comes together and it’s magic how people have captured their likeness like that.”

Penner said the rule with Faces of Winkler is that there are no rules. “We don’t give the artists any guidelines,” he said. “This is the person, meet them, and we’ll see you at the show. To me, that’s the magic of this.”

Val Harder was chosen as a Face of Winkler this year. Her art piece was done by Kathy Forness.
“It was scary at first, but once I met her it was like, ‘Wow, she could be my sister,’” Forness said. “Our similarities in our lives are so dead-on it was easy to do.”

Harder said it was an odd experience to sit down with someone she knew would be drawing her. “The first time I was terribly nervous,” she said. “I didn’t know why I’d been nominated, I didn’t know anything. It was really special, and it only took a little time for us to figure out the direction and then Kathy had this great idea to split it up.”

“It’s beautiful,” she added. “I think it represents who I am. It’s got my pieces of my life.”

Don Friesen was another of the people chosen to be a Face of Winkler. He said it was quite a surprise to be picked.

“It’s very humbling,” he said. “It’s great to be a part of.”

Friesen’s daughter Melissa Friesen was the artist that drew him. “That was unique,” he said. “I thought which better person to paint me than my daughter, who’s an artist.”

The little girl in the painting was a six-year-old orphan when she met Friesen, who volunteered at an orphanage in Mexico for many years. “She’s called us mom and dad for 18 years,” he said. “It’s pretty special.”

The art piece is done on a cement bag Friesen helped pour at the orphanage.

“We used to do lots of concrete work there when I was younger,” he said. “It was kind of unique for her to choose a concrete bag to paint on.”

Penner said it’s hard to choose between nominations, but ultimately it comes down to variety. “We don’t want to have 12 businesspeople, 12 students,” he said. “It’s people who reflect many walks of life and different backgrounds.”

“I can almost guarantee you none of these faces really wanted to do this,” he added. “I always have to talk them into it a little bit, because who wants to feel that they’re the centre of attention? Most people don’t really want that. It isn’t about what you’ve done, it’s about who you are.”

Faces of Winkler runs until April 27 at the art gallery on Park Street.

Winkler Arts & Culture is already accepting nominations for next year’s Faces of Winkler.

Artist Kathy Forness captured Val Harder for the Faces of Winkler exhibit. (LAUREN MACGILL, Winkler Times)

Mary Goertzen (captured by photographer Lynette Giesbrecht and artist Ruth Hiebert) is one of the Faces of Winkler this year. (LAUREN MACGILL, Winkler Times)

Nicole Penner (captured by photographer Alia Elias and artist Kelly Klages) is one of the Faces of Winkler this year. (LAUREN MACGILL, Winkler Times)