Guest Post! Winnipeg-The Cultural Capital of Canada

I am so proud to introduce my first-ever guest blogger! Please give a warm welcome to Alix Sobler, marketing and communications coordinator for Winnipeg Cultural Capital of Canada 2010, as she talks about this exciting initiative and what it’s meant for downtown.


I was very excited when Peggy invited me to guest blog for her today. Our Winnipeg Cultural Capital of Canada 2010 team has had such a busy year, and it’s not over yet! 2010 may have ended at the stroke of midnight on January 1, but our Cultural Capital “year” of celebration is still going strong, and it will have an impact on Winnipeg’s Downtown for years to come.

First, a little background: The Cultural Capitals program is a competitive program run through the Department of Canadian Heritage. Every year they recognize cities for special events and programs that utilize the benefits of the arts. In 2007 the Winnipeg Arts Council made application to this program on behalf of the City of Winnipeg, and in late 2009, we found out. Those of us who live here know that Winnipeg has long been the cultural capital of Canada with some of North America’s largest festivals, oldest artistic institutions, and most cutting edge artists. But it was nice to make that designation official, and to be able to use the money that came with it to create some events and programs that would really knock some socks off!

The theme of Winnipeg’s Cultural Capital program is ARTS FOR ALL, and a big part of that was making the arts accessible to everyone in Winnipeg. Naturally, Downtown was a huge part of that plan. One of our largest events was the River Barge Festival at the Forks. This five-day performing arts festival took advantage of the beautiful summer days and evenings and featured an eclectic line up with something for everyone. More than 20,000 people came down to enjoy performances by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Manitoba Theatre Centre, Luke Doucet and the White Falcon, Papa Mambo, Chic Gamine, J.C. Campbell & Tracy Bone, and many, many more.

Not long after, we teamed up with the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ to present The BIG DANCE on Broadway as part of the Lights on Broadway Festival. When planning this event we imagined older people waltzing on the avenue, groups of people dancing in unison, young people filling the air with a nightclub atmosphere…we dreamed big for The BIG DANCE, and Winnipeg came through…in a BIG way! 20,000 people came downtown to dance it up, and even the weather did not disappoint! We had two stages set up on Broadway, with one stage decorated to hark back to the grandiose days of Winnipeg’s dance halls of the 20s and 30s, the other one evoked the classic days of disco. The dancing started at 4pm and continued well into the evening with everything from Latin to country to hip-hop while dance groups were on hand giving demonstrations and lessons so that everyone could take part. Ron Paley’s Big Band capped off an amazing night that made a lot of people see Downtown in a different way than ever before.

In addition to our large-scale events, we had smaller, more intimate programs that gave people downtown a chance to learn and interact directly with artists. Our symposium, MY CITY’S STILL BREATHING focused on the relationship between artists and the cities they live in, and gave policy makers and creative people a chance to interact. Taking place primarily at the Fort Garry Hotel and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the symposium gave out-of-towners an idea of the potential of our downtown, and gave locals a chance to see it through new eyes.

As part of our Arts Ambassador program Natasha Torres-Garner, Dance Ambassador, created a remarkable duet dance piece that explored the nature of interaction Downtown. Transient Exposition began at the circular walkway at Portage and Main connected to Winnipeg Square, travelled the underground walkways and skywalks and ended at the walkway above the Millennium Library. Many people were fascinated and some were even unnerved by this direct interaction with art in a manner and a place to which they weren’t accustomed, but overall the inventiveness and beauty of the piece really struck a chord with people. You can read a bit about it in Carol Phillip’s op-ed piece that was published in the Winnipeg Free Press.

There’s a lot more, but I have a feeling Peggy would like her blog back.

I will just bullet point a few of the highlights of some of our amazing projects that are ongoing or still to come:

Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years
International Exhibition of Contemporary Indigenous Art
Open until May 8, 2011

Close Encounters is an exhibition focused on presenting Indigenous art from around the world. With venues all over the city, including some amazing work in Manitoba Hydro Place right on Portage Ave, this incredibly important show features the work of a number of renowned Canadian Indigenous artists, complemented by some of the most innovative and engaging work drawn from Indigenous populations across the globe.

Major Public Art Project

A Major Public Art Project will be located in the Millennium Library Park and is being funded by the Cultural Capitals program and the Winnipeg Arts Council’s Public Art program. With a total budget of $575,000, this will be the largest public art project in Winnipeg to date. The call-to-artists resulted in both national and international submissions. Once selected and installed, the piece will be a permanent, contemporary artwork using elements of water and light. The piece is slated to be completed in the fall of 2011.

International Cello Festival of Canada
June 15-19, 2011

This cello festival promises to be like no other Canadian festival. WCCC 2010 has teamed up with the Agassiz Music Festival to present the International Cello Festival of Canada 2011. It will be an extraordinary event, with a host of internationally celebrated cellists participating.

Thanks again for letting me blog about our exciting program and what it has meant to Downtown! We hope to see some of these programs continue into the future!

2 thoughts on “Guest Post! Winnipeg-The Cultural Capital of Canada

  1. I would LOVE to treat my husband to East India Company! He loves Indian food and it’s not something I have mastered the art of – as yet! But I’m working on it! This restaurant has been on the list for some time to visit – I’m certain it would be a real treat! We hope to hear from you!

    Audrey Treichel – 204-224-8244 (or 204-414-9010)

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