Lights on the Exchange Artist Spotlight

Get to know Derek Bassey and Karrie McEwan- two of the artists lighting up the Exchange.

Meet Derek Bassey, a creator whose passion for art has been a lifelong journey.  Drawn to art as soon as he could read and write, he fully stepped into being an artist after graduating high school. It all came together when he took a gap year before starting university and began experimenting with painting.

Derek describes his creative process as chaotic and ever-evolving.  He often finds inspiration to paint many pieces at once, sometimes starting new projects before finishing old ones- but he always has a sense of where he wants to go with his work.  This cycle of creation has led to so many beautiful paintings and pieces.

Derek Bassey

Derek describes himself as a self-taught artist who never stops learning.  He draws inspiration from a variety of places, but his main source of inspiration is music.  Although not a musician himself, he cites the enjoyment of music as the most immovable force in his life.  Derek also draws inspiration from family, tv-shows, life experiences, and other artists.

One of Derek’s favourite projects is a painting he recently completed, titled “Until We Meet Again.”

It’s a large figure painting measuring 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide, and it was both the largest and most technically challenging painting he’s ever done.  In his words, “It’s big as hell” and he was proud to finish the behemoth of a piece.

Derek loves to explore the art and restaurants in the Exchange District and appreciates its ambiance, character, and walkability.

Next time you walk through the Exchange District, make sure you check out Derek’s piece One night at the ‘borough at 279 McDermot Ave.

To see more of Derek’s art check out @derekbassey on Instagram or head to

Derek hard at work setting up his piece
Karrie admiring their work during install
Karrie McEwan

Karrie McEwan is a two-spirit Anishinaabe artist whose passion for drawing started at a young age. As a child, Karrie was inspired by watching their brothers play video games and began drawing characters of their own. These early experiences inspired them to become an artist.  Drawing further inspiration from their uncle- who is also an artist- they continued to pursue their passion for art through education. They attended the University of Manitoba School of Art and received a Design Honours degree- the same program their uncle had attended years earlier.

Karrie’s creative process begins with drawing ideas in their sketchbook and experimenting with different styles that best fit their vision.

Karrie’s signature style is a blend of aspects from traditional Indigenous art mixed with urban art and graphic illustrations.

Karrie is heavily inspired by video games and loves the way story-telling and concept art come together in the final product. They enjoy drawing characters and creating worlds for them. Recently, they’ve been exploring the techy-cyberpunk style and combining graphic design with their artwork to create something unique.

One of Karrie’s most notable projects was for their Design Honours Class, where they first created the Nanabush comic character. In traditional Anishinaabe stories, Nanabush is a mythological trickster spirit.  Karrie interpreted Nanabush in a different way, making a series of collectible trading cards featuring different characters in the Nanabush series.  It was a fun way of designing Indigenous stereotypical characters and objects, and they enjoyed picking out the names and designs for entertaining cartoon characters that fit within the world they created.

Karrie loves that the Exchange District always has something happening- from festivals to meet-ups to unique shops and restaurants. They hope to spend more time in the Exchange District and attend Red River College Polytechnic.

Karrie’s piece at 185 Bannatyne (pictured above) highlights pieces from their Nanabush series.

You can see more of Karrie’s work on their Instagram account @karriemcewan