To Jasyn Lucas, being nominated for a Manitoba Tourism Award in the Indigenous tourism category makes him grateful for all the support he has received since moving back to Northern Manitoba from Vancouver and pursuing art as a full-time career.
“That’s pretty sweet to be recognized like that,” said the Thompson artist, who was nominated by Community Futures North Central Development (CFNCD), an economic development agency that helped him launch his art and tattooing business. “They’ve helped me out with my business plans and stuff growing up. They were always there for support.”
Lucas and his partner Nikki Brightnose opened their gallery/studio/tattoo parlour The Gift of Art at the corner of Selkirk Avenue and Public Lane three years ago, but still have people wander in who never knew it was there.
“A lot of people don’t notice it but I think when they come in and have a chance just to spend a few minutes here that they’re really happy that they came by,” said Lucas. “We sure are [happy] because we work alone so it’s nice to have company.”
Although they’d like to have more signs directing foot traffic into their business, which isn’t open regular hours because of all the work they have lined up, it isn’t something Lucas says they can do right now.
“We’d love to have a new sign but we’re just like, ‘Let’s just make it through the first few years first and then worry about signs.’”
Tattooing is something Lucas took up after painting and says its popularity hasn’t faded.
“We did think over time that it might get old or it might get out of style and not be trendy anymore and we might just kind of lose business, but it really hasn’t been like that,” said Lucas. “It’s just snowballed into something that just keeps getting better and better.”
That turns out to be a benefit, because not all the people who come into the gallery have money to spend on their products.
“Often we’ll get people who come in here and they really love to have a visit and talk and learn about the area, but don’t necessarily have the funds to invest in art,” said Lucas. “We don’t just serve as a retail service. We’re also kind of ambassadors for the city.”
The Indigenous tourism category of the Manitoba Tourism Awards recognizes excellence in the delivery of culturally based experiences that are respectful of the cultural and economic integrity of the local community and surrounding area.
According to CFNCD development officer Charlene Kissick, the opening of The Gift of Art really enhanced both Thompson’s art community and retail landscape.
“We wanted to nominate Jasyn because we send all our visitors there,” she said. “People want the opportunity to purchase locally made products and this is truly the authentic experience they’re looking for.”
CNFCD chairperson Darlene Beck said Lucas is a great ambassador for Northern Manitoba.
“He is setting an example for youth and the business community on how you can truly create a career out of your passion,” she said.
However, while trying to run a business based on art can be difficult Lucas said it’s also very rewarding.
“It’s so overwhelming,” he said. “It’s exciting and sometimes too it feels like a lot. We’re kind of faking it till we’re making it. We’re trying our best.”
“So many people are so supportive of us and our business that they refer people here all the time so it’s nice to get new faces coming in just to get to meet Jasyn when they can and to have a look at the art,” said Brightnose. “We’re just grateful for our community and the support. We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing if there wasn’t support.”
All Manitoba Tourism Awards finalists will be honoured at the annual award celebration Sept. 13 in Winnipeg.