The Winnipeg Life Drawing Society is a direct outgrowth of the "River Studio" - a vacant property owned by Mary Subedar in 2012 and casually offered rent-free to a small group of artists as a venue to draw. A permanent studio was fabricated from a former living space/sunroom equipped with custom made horses, easels, stages, props, drawing boards, lights and a stage in South St Vital. The group was originally given the key to access the space due to Mary's own time contraints and made use of 30% of the residence. Within a few months Mary oversaw the group's direction.
Since 2013 the city endured one Life Drawing club closure after another and the studio's became a buttress for these losses which eventually included the Winnipeg Art Gallery's own Life Drawing night. "River Studio" was also in operation during the holiday closures of other studios and eventually came to be heavily relied upon by Life Drawing artists for its twice weekly sessions in its last years of existence.
The Studio went farther afield. It attempted to foster a sense of "community." Group activities such as "art parties" were hosted where artistic ideas could be shared. Its private location surrounded by green-space shared books, a stocked kitchen and intimate environment encouraged togetherness and personal growth through regular exchange with others artists. The studio's intimate scale was also ideal for portrait artists and enabled almost everyone excellent access to life models at close range.
River Studio was never advertised publicly due to its limited size and to ensure that each regular member of the group was guaranteed a place to work. Still, it had its doors continually open eventually serving 31 different artists over a 5 year period without any source of public or private funding whatsoever. It was essentially a unofficial non-profit entity created and offered to the city by a private citizen.
While the studio buttressed other drawing venues temporarily it was not intended to last 5 years and after this time frame it too was closing, and the Life Drawing group and community, however small, was at risk of disbanding.
The idea to start a formal society or club grew out of the desire to keep the group together and independent of the venue in which they worked, and to provide a vehicle for further growth that could incorporate a larger Winnipeg community.
Indeed, while Winnipeg has had various life drawing "venues" it has never spawned an organization or "society" that is dedicated to the art of Life Drawing. A "venue" is not a "society". River Studio was a good model for a larger scaled initiative.
The physical infrastructure from the River Studio was donated to the current studio and with it the Studio's conceptual ideals. A formal tenancy contract was entered into with a new location - 525 Wardlaw -a 2000 square foot space in the lower level of Crescent Fort Rouge United Church. The church has proved an opportune choice being the heart of other artistic ventures such as concerts and cradled in the city's colorful Osborne Village. Mary is the society's Executive Director, coordinating and overseeing its present activities.