Enterprising Women Making Art

Enterprising Women Making Art (EWMA) is a program of a non-profit called Atira Women’s Resource Society, an organization which works toward ending violence against women and children. We spoke to Angel Kruger, Program Coordinator with EWMA to hear about their impact in the Downtown Eastside and how art plays a role in everything they do.

What is EWMA’s mission?

EWMA is a feminist social enterprise that operates on an anti-oppressive and harm reduction framework. Our mission is to work with women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) and the surrounding areas to develop a form of self-employment that, seeks to create revenue out of creativity. We offer free arts and crafts workshops in our studio where women can learn how to create different products or brush up on different skills. Once products are created (either in the studio or at home), we offer our store as a way to sell those products at market value. What makes EWMA’s mission as a social enterprise different from other social enterprises is its commitment to providing a safe space for all self-identified women, particularly women who have been impacted by violence and who face significant barriers to traditional employment.

Who benefits from the EWMA program?

Everyone! Women’s active participation in their communities and engagement in the economy benefits a range of people and neighbourhoods. Not only do women (and particularly women rooted in the DTES) have an opportunity to safely generate income in an environment free from exploitation, abuse, and other vulnerabilities, but the low-income, DTES, Strathcona, and other participating communities are economically diversified. We are a retail store in Greater Vancouver selling handmade, local, and ethically-sourced products. Since most of our products use recycled materials, EWMA is also playing a role in the City of Vancouver’s goal of being the greenest city by 2020.

Tell us about your upcoming workshops.

With one of our community partners, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Art Collective (DEWAC), we’re hosting a Zine Making Workshop. With Gallery Gachet, another local arts organization, we’re hosting a Bath Bomb Making Workshop. We also have Holiday Ornament Making, Patchwork & Quilting, Jewelry 101, and Winter Holiday Painting and Card Making coming up.

Who inspires you?

EWMA was inspired by two women who lived in one of Atira’s residential programs in the early 2000s. They were making and selling well made and high quality beaded jewelry and tatted lace tablecloths. Both were on income assistance and struggling with substance use and often selling these stunning pieces for five or 10 dollars, just to survive. Our CEO was motivated by these two women to find a way for them to get real value for the items they were creating. EWMA was born and while it has been through a number of iterations, women now not only have a safe space to sell their art, but also a makers studio where they can build capacity, learn new skills, and connect with other women on a daily basis in a safe space, free from exploitation.

So this story and the women who are part of EWMA inspire us – as a program, as staff members, and as participating women – it is an important story because it keeps us grounded. There are still women who make beautiful jewelry participating at EWMA, and now, thanks to this program, there are women who are making a variety of other amazing products – everything from toques and gloves, to smudge wands, to gift cards. So we are continually inspired by the women who participate.

Find out more about EWMA and their workshops here.

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