Erica Wilson

Dreaming Bigger and Better: Erica Wilson’s Vision for the Arts Comes to Life

“I never stopped daydreaming… I'm always thinking bigger,” declares Erica Wilson, an arts and entertainment professional who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She recently co-managed the Indigenous TikTok Accelerator Series with the National Screen Institute and her day job is working as the community and rental coordinator at the West End Cultural Centre. She’s been renewed as arts director and board member for the Winnipeg Arts Council and she’s being mentored through WRENCH. 

The TikTok opportunity came about from a long-term professional relationship with someone working at the Screen Institute after a series of collaborations including a 24-hour film challenge where Wilson worked as an actor. When the short-term contract became available, her longtime collaborator recommended her. It’s just one of many opportunities that have come to her as a result of her connections and hard work in her field. 

She started thinking about a career in the arts after participating in an Aboriginal mentorship and training program at MTYP, taking acting classes after school and attending arts events. She kept saying yes to opportunities and kept receiving more. An avid concertgoer, she was looking for ways to get more involved in the arts and she found a way to make it happen. 

What she loves most about her work is getting to be part of a community, though sometimes the work can be isolating. The constant opportunity and need to learn keeps things fresh and interesting which is important because she gets easily bored. She loves starting things and gets energy from building something new. 

Her advice for people struggling with isolation is to find people they can talk to and seek out genuine human connections outside of work. Over time, she’s learned to enjoy her own company so she can relax by herself but she knows she needs people, too. To overcome barriers in life, she’s trying to find a support system and people she can confide in. She watches TikTok therapy videos to help her learn more skills and inspirational videos to stay motivated and empowered. Reddit is another place she finds support and advice when she needs it. When all else fails, she can also search for answers about the things she’s concerned about online. 

A typical work day for Wilson includes working at the West End Cultural Center, somewhere she finds a lot of support. Many of her colleagues have other side gigs where she might also work with them and she works in theatre and does small contracts. When she has downtime, she can work on personal projects if she’s done everything she needs to do. 

Illustration by Shaikara David

Her advice for young Indigenous people considering a career in creative entertainment is to take as many classes and workshops as possible, go to public shows, viewings, festivals or exhibitions and learn how things are run. She suggests googling who is working in the spaces, their resumes and educational backgrounds as research. With deadlines, opportunities and online content constantly popping up, there’s always something new to explore. 

“Just take any wisdom or knowledge that you can get from anyone. Listen, and pay attention when you find that multiple people or multiple organizations or areas are repeating themselves,” she advises, suggesting integrating feedback that keeps coming up. 

As far as her own educational experiences, Wilson did not enjoy high school and struggled to pass English. She was busy with acting classes and in grades eleven and twelve she had to work to make money. Work kept her away from school sometimes and she failed science. In the end, she was able to get enough credits to graduate but the challenges she faced meant she didn’t pursue higher education, choosing instead to learn on the job in mentorships and apprenticeships, by googling and asking questions. 

Thinking of her hopes for the future, Wilson submitted a grant for herself so she can pursue an alternative learning experience through mentorships and workshops so she can move into an artistic director role. She wants to be a bridge between Indigenous knowledge and the arts and culture sector in her city because she knows there’s a big disconnect between the two. She has an advantage speaking the languages of both arts and Indigenous culture. Through her work, she hopes to address the compensation and equitable engagement of elders, ethical sharing of cultural wisdom through performance and improve the accuracy of what is shared. If she doesn’t get the big grant, she’s going to start applying on smaller ones when she can and keep reaching for more funding to support her learning. Beyond her professional pursuits, she wants to hike more mountains, create more art and tackle her many dreams slowly. 

In thinking about what inspires her to hike mountains and follow her professional dreams, Wilson points to the anger she’s had inside that she’s been able to channel in positive ways. When someone didn’t think she was good enough, she would find a way to become great. When it felt like people wanted her to fail, she would push past and succeed. The anger she felt inside pushed her and she’s been able to turn what’s seen as a negative emotion into something positive. “Being angry should not be viewed as a negative aspect of someone's personality. It just means that they see a lot of injustice, and they're the ones that are going to have to really control their fire in order to bring greatness to the world,” she concludes. 

Always daydreaming and never stopping dreaming bigger, Erica Wilson has found a way to bring a career in the arts to life. She’s imagining a way of being in the arts world where Indigenous culture and knowledge keepers can be treated with care and integrity and she’s building pathways to guide the industry along as she learns and grows. Channeling anger and embracing opportunities, her arms and heart are open for a better artistic tomorrow.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
  • Date
    March 5, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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