Art

REDress Project artist seeks to create sense of community, solidarity

'It can reach a lot of audiences and get people to start talking and thinking'

During Black’s time in Halifax, The REDress Project will be featured at Nocturne: Art at Night, Anna Leonowens Galley and Port Loggia Gallery. Photo: Jessica Hirtle
Jaime Black’s REDress Project will be featured at Nocturne: Art at Night and at the Anna Leonowens and Port Loggia galleries.   Jessica Hirtle

A small group gathered around a collection of red dresses at the Anna Leonowens Gallery on Wednesday to hear artist Jaime Black speak about her installation, the REDress Project.

Black, a Winnipeg-based Métis artist, created the project in 2010 to shed light on more than 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

During the discussion, Black emphasized how the installation’s empty dresses have created a sense of community and solidarity among people across Canada.

“I put out a call for red dresses and over the first year of doing this work I was sent over 300 red dresses,” she says.

“Not necessarily by families that are directly affected, but just people … you open the door and want to walk through it.”

The REDress Project exhibit at the Anna Leonowens Gallery features nine donated dresses.
The REDress Project exhibit at the Anna Leonowens Gallery features nine dresses.   Jessica Hirtle

For Black, the gathering at the gallery allowed participants to connect on a more personal and intimate level.

“I really liked the direction that talk took … because I think that’s the reality behind these dresses,” she says. “If we connected with each other more fully we could possibly turn around a lot of these situations.”

Tamika Knutson, a jewelry design student at NSCAD University, says the benefits to meeting and speaking with an artist are that “you can actually ask the questions you want and get to know the artist a little more.”

“I think it can reach a lot of audiences and get people to start talking and thinking about this issue,” she says of the REDress Project.

“The things we were talking about … having real, honest compassion for people and connecting in a real way,” says Black, “those are little things, that actually aren’t little, that can make pretty profound change in the way we interact with each other.”

The REDress Project will be on display at the Anna Leonowens Gallery and Port Loggia Gallery until Oct. 22. The installation will also be featured at Nocturne: Art at Night this Saturday.