4th Annual GerryFest Celebrates the Legacy of Gerry Atwell Through Mentorship

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The legacy of beloved music icon Gerry Atwell will be honoured this month with the fourth annual GerryFest and the RiseUp Mentorship Program. Running Saturday, August 12 and presented by the St. Norbert Arts Centre with Black History Manitoba, the festival celebrates Atwell's dedication to the mentorship of emerging artists of diverse backgrounds, recognizing his lifelong dedication to breaking down barriers and dismantling systemic racism in music and arts. A talented musician, connector, advocate, and arts champion, Atwell passed away in 2019.

The multi-disciplinary RiseUp Mentorship Program returns this year with a talented cohort of emerging artists on the path to a career in the arts. The two-month opportunity is helmed this year by GerryFest artistic director Ashley Beiniarz, who is working with the participants on collaboration, professional development, and promoting racial equity.

This year's artist mentors include Ami Cheon, JayWood, and Lisa Whitehouse, along with SNAC's Judy Williams, Stephen Carroll of Manitoba Film & Music, Cathleen Enns of the Manitoba Arts Council, Dan St. Ives, Naomi Gerrard, Claire Boning of Misfit Music MGMT, Chloe Chafe of Synonym Art Consultation, Alex Sannie of Manitoba Music, and more.

A fundraiser for the Gerry Atwell Memorial Mentorship Endowment Fund, the GerryFest schedule includes an afternoon art opening followed by a concert featuring mentorship participants along with Daryl Rymer and Boom Calypso, who will share songs penned by Atwell that are featured on the 2022 album Gerry Atwell, Generation of Love. The concert will be followed by an after-party mixer with food and music courtesy of DJ Kosala. 

Suggested donations for tickets are $20 or more, with proceeds going directly to build the Gerry Atwell Memorial Mentorship Endowment Fund. Tax receipts would be provided for donations of $20 and above. More info is available at www.snac.mb.ca/happenings


Presented by the St. Norbert Arts Centre & Black History Manitoba

Saturday, August 12

Art Opening / 3 - 5PM
You will see the work of two visual artists mentees, Xiaojun "Ada" Zhang and Zen Thompson, in this year's program as well as selected work from other amazing artists who were involved in the "Bench Project" at SNAC this Spring. 

Live Concert / 6 - 11 PM
The live concert will feature performances by seven talented emerging artists. The performance will conclude with Daryl Rymer and Boom Calypso performing for one hour. Their performance will include songs that Gerry wrote that were re-released at GerryFest 2022 on the CD called Gerry Atwell, Generation of Love. This CD will be available for sale.

Artists: Shay Wolf, RJ Martinez, Allie James, Tega, Kwado, Kozii, Spectrums, Cosmic River, Dance Group, Boom Calypso

After Party / 11 - 12:30 PM
Please stay after  the concert and mingle & meet all the artists in the Gallery, listen to music by DJ Kosala and share some nibbles generously donated by Fort Catering

This event is an MB Live partnered event. For more info about MB Live, visit manitobamusic.com/mblive. For more info about partnership, please visit manitobamusic.com/partnerships.

RiseUp Mentorship Program Participants 

Ada Zhang
Watercolour Painting

Xiaojun “Ada” Zhang is a painter and embroidery artist from China, currently living in the community of St. Norbert, Manitoba. As an experienced home textile designer, she has honed her skills of capturing the beauty, colour, and lines of nature. She is also keen on embroidery and food making, and loves a vibrant life.

When Ada was young, she loved painting and often immersed herself in it. When designing home textiles, she used natural flowers as a theme for self-expression and personal style. As she shifts her focus to painting, she is developing her drawing and skills with acrylic paint. With unbridled passion, Ada uses lines and colour blocking to evoke the natural beauty of the world through her own perspective. Inspired by artists like Van Gogh and Monet, she hopes to express herself through the power of painting.

Through the participation of the RiseUp Mentorship and GerryFest Program, Ada hopes to learn from other artists and their experiences to develop her emerging career as an artist in Canada.

Allie James
RNB, Soul, Funk, Jazz

Allie James is a multi-genre singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, Manitoba with a deep connection to the arts community through music, film and acting. Allie draws inspiration from Canadian artists such as Zeina, Ami Cheon, and Emotional Oranges. Allie brings a high energy performance that captivates audiences evoking the nostalgic beats of 90s RnB infused with Funk, Soul, Blues, and jazz. In 2023, Allie recently released her debut single “One More Night” featuring local rapper Young Gio The song has collected comparisons to the timeless chemistry of JayZ and Beyonce. As Allie continues with her music journey she hopes to keep the nostalgic vibes alive and release her EP “I don't wanna lose you like he lost me” in 2024.


Emmanuel Bongar
Alternative Rock

Emmanuel Bongar is the bassist and vocalist of ‘spectrums.’ The band was formed in 2022 from Emmanuel and Aud’s former band. They decided that they needed a new handle to suit their identity better. They agreed upon the name ‘spectrums.’ Because every member of the band is part of the LGBTQ+ community, and they wear it proudly, which is evident through their live performances, stage presence, and song lyrics, which tackle a multitude of topics reflective of each member’s experiences. Uniquely, spectrums. does not have a frontman, because they want every voice to be heard. Every member of the band can sing and play each other's instruments, leading to some interesting instrument switches on stage.

Combining catchy melodies with a diverse sound; ‘spectrums.’ creates a vibe that is reflective of each member’s wildly different influences, which combine New Wave, Post-Punk, Emo, Alternative Rock, etc.  The group is planning on releasing their Self-Titled Debut EP in the coming months.



Hip Hop/Rap

Kozii is a Hip-Hop/Rap artist & songwriter. He grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and is currently based in Canada. The young artist first started rapping as a hobby with his friends in grade 7, and this soon turned into a career when he discovered his passion for music. He would write lyrics of his own and perform them in church and social events. The support he received from those around him encouraged him to nurture his gift over time. Kozii raps in multiple styles and flows, truly showing his talent – and combines a high level of lyricism with soothing melodies to make inspiring records.


Hip Hop

Kwado, a Canadian musician, arrived in 2016, seeking education and chasing his dreams. His breakthrough came with "Thoughts" on SoundCloud in 2017, followed by the EP "conflicted," exploring personal conflicts and vices. Joining the 1207 collective in 2018, while at Carleton University, he released "Kwado blues," expressing struggles in diverse environments. Kwado's versatility shone through tracks like "Personal" and "Magic" in 2019, focusing on romance. Despite the pandemic, he completed his education and released "Beyond Me" in diverse genres. Graduating from the University of Manitoba with a psychology degree, his upcoming single "Too Long" features a friend. Now known as Kwae Kobain, Kwado is making waves in local art communities, refining his production skills for a sophomore EP and album.


RJ Martinez

RJ is a Winnipeg based musician who seeks to create a mellow rock fusion experience. Taking inspiration from artists like Carter Vail, Vansire and Tim Atlas, RJ wants to allow the listener to have a mellow experience, allowing them to feel and flow with the mood of the song. 

Shay Wolf

Shay Wolf is a prairie-born, classically trained pianist turned singer/songwriter. Her music works its way into the cracks of your heart and will leave you feeling like you’ve just daydreamed for hours watching the clouds go by. Shay Wolf has been compared to Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell and she released her debut EP, ‘Stay’, in March of 2023 which is available on all streaming platforms.



Tega, a genre bending singer-songwriter, beautifully combines R&B elements with her distinctive take on pop music. With her roots in Lagos and upbringing in Abuja, Tega's journey began with enchanting performances in her school choir. Over time, she nurtured a deep love for songwriting, drawing inspiration from a diverse range of genres such as Pop Punk, Indie, and R&B. Tega's songs delve into themes of love, spirituality, and personal growth, inviting listeners on an introspective voyage of self-discovery. 

Watch out for this remarkable artist as she continues to weave her sonic magic and touch the hearts and souls of listeners worldwide.


Zen Thompson
Surrealist Painting

Zen Thompson is a surrealist contemporary painter who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. With ancestry from Trinidad. Zen’s art utilises Caribbean superstitions along with bold colours and imagery. Zen has started venturing into making t-shirts and prints. She adventures using other mediums such as film using similar metaphorical imagery. The film was used in the Winnipeg art gallery’s short-film festival in 2022. Her distinctive personal style uses humorous, bright, images contrasting with scary depictions of life.

Short Film: The Chicken & The Egg

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