For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council would like to feature one of its board members, Brenda McKenzie, a visual artist, writer, and photographer. One of her favourite art quotes comes from Pablo Picasso: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
In September of 2014, she joined WRAC as the representative from Pinawa. At the Annual General meeting of 2019, McKenzie agreed to serve a three year term as president of WRAC. More recently, she is now finishing year one of a second term. Board members appreciate her unfailing reliability, easygoing manner, and insistence on keeping the meetings as close as possible to one hour long.
As one of the directors, she regularly attends board meetings. Along with this monthly commitment, she has shown a constant willingness to step up and assist with whatever project WRAC has planned. She helps with fundraising activities and sells tickets for events and raffles in Pinawa. Also, when the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre brings one of its annual touring productions to the region, she and husband Brian always volunteer to help with setup and takedown. As some know, this job can last for several hours and involves lots of physical activity.
In 1971, McKenzie moved to Pinawa from Winnipeg, to work as a substitute teacher for Whiteshell School District. She also joined with Vivian Thomson and other local artists to start an art club in the local high school, and later, the W.B. Lewis School. In 1998, she was hired as a full-time teacher and worked as an art instructor until her retirement in 2004.
For several years, McKenzie acted as Pinawa Art 211’s gallery manager, arranging various displays and organizing the rotation of gallery volunteers who assisted customers. Currently, she continues to volunteer at the gallery, located in the W.B. Lewis Business Centre. In 2013, she coordinated a team of fellow artists who presented the Eastman Judged Art Exhibition (EJAE) at Pinawa Secondary school.
As a visual artist, she has won awards for both her photography and her paintings. The most recent was in the Whiteshell Winter Arts Festival’s virtual art contest. In 2012, she published her novel, Loving You, about dealing with a relative’s dementia. Her second book, Commitments, is currently being edited, following suggestions from ECW Press, Toronto.
She says, “Although COVID has curtailed my love of travel, my art and writing have kept me busy while at home.”