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Uptown Emporium, imagiNorthern gets $250k grant to expand, promote northern art

A project started by the Flin Flon Arts Council has received a major dose of funding from a national arts program.
Stock image of paintbrushes on a palette.

A project started by the Flin Flon Arts Council has received a major dose of funding from a national arts program.

The council announced Oct. 14 that the imagiNorthern and Uptown Emporium project had been awarded a grant of $250,000 from the Strategic Innovation Fund from the Canada Council of the Arts. The money will go toward helping expand the Uptown Emporium umbrella and its online tools and presence.

Starting in 2020, the Uptown Emporium started with the Flin Flon Arts Council looking for a way to build an online store where area artists and crafters to sell their work, beginning with an online-only version of the arts council's annual Christmas craft sale. That expanded over time to a full-blown business, complete with a storefront on Main Street, photography and audio projects, a webstore and small shipping enterprise and expansion to other northern communities.

The new money will allow for further expansion of the group.

"With representation from Flin Flon, Churchill, Thompson, The Pas and several other communities, the imagiNorthern network is driving a unified arts agenda in northern Manitoba. With the Uptown Emporium as a working model, the long-term strategy will see physical depots established in a number of northern communities," reads the announcement of the funding.

The imagiNorthern group began as an offshoot of the Uptown Emporium project, with several regional representatives - the group calls them "northern champions" - working to build the group and to assist northern artists. The group now consists of members of four regional groups - the Flin Flon Arts Council, the Churchill Creative Collective, the Thompson Mall of the Arts and The Pas Arts Council.

"The Flin Flon Arts Council is honoured to be the recipient of the Canada Council For The Arts Strategic Initiative Fund, as this opportunity will allow both initiatives to take the next steps in this exciting journey: building infrastructure to support artists and makers in Manitoba’s north, strengthening our dynamic communities by introducing economic growth and creating markets for distinct and inspiring goods," reads the funding announcement.

Other regional arts leaders praised the funding, saying the group's expansion was a positive move to promote northern art.

"‘The Flin Flon Arts Council is grateful for this opportunity to scale up our efforts to actively support more artisans and makers across the north," said Flin Flon Arts Council past president Linda Eryou.

‘The strategy is another positive step toward reconciliation in the north. As a Metis woman, I appreciate the effort and the plan and how it includes the Indigenous people," said Cheryl Antonio with The Pas Arts Council.

The Canada Council for the Arts is a federal Crown corporation operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Canadian Heritage which funds arts and culture programs across Canada.

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