At a first glance, Winnipeg seems like an unlikely place to have an interesting art scene. Agribusiness, transportation, and manufacturing are the mainstays of our notoriously slow and steady economy. These are key industries that provide essentials all over the world, but they don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with dreamers or visionaries. In this way, it’s unexpected to think of art as having a stronghold in the city. That is until you look a little closer.
The next time you walk through the downtown area, if you really look around, you’ll start to see it. Beautifully crafted murals are on the sides of buildings, in alleyways and even on electrical boxes. Intriguing fountains are found in unlikely places including the much instagrammed emptyful hiding behind the Millennium Library (one of my favorite downtown green spaces). Exploring downtown through the lens of art is an entirely new experience. While the guided tours offered by the Winnipeg Art Council have ceased for the season, they do offer a Public Art Guide including maps, pictures, and blurbs about each piece. As you do the tour, keep in mind that when and where you view these artworks may change how you see them, such as with the High Five piece located on Waterfront Drive. If interactive art is more your speed, then you may be interested in making some beautiful music (and maybe a new friend!) at You You + You at 580 Main Street. The wonderful thing about these artworks is that there truly is something for everyone. Conveniently, along your travels you’ll encounter some art studios, including the cre8ery, Urban Shaman, and the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art . You can take some art home with you by purchasing original prints from the Martha Street Studio or perusing the variety of works available at Warehouse Artworks. Be sure to check each studio’s hours before you go, but generally all are open between 12 – 5 on Saturdays.
As the weather turns colder and wandering outdoors becomes less palatable, there are some larger than life places to go. The Legislature building itself is truly a work of art, both inside and out. If you haven’t made the effort to go and explore inside, you’re missing out. Earlier this year, Mike and I went on the Hermetic Code tour and we were left in awe of how many layers of myth and history the architect, Frank Worthington Simon, managed to incorporate into his vision for the building. If you enjoy mythology, secret codes, or conspiracy theories about the Freemasons, then this is worth your time.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery (aka the WAG) is art headquarters for the city. Designed to look like the prow of a rising boat on an ocean, the building itself is beautiful. The collection inside can be overwhelming at times due to its size. A good place to start though is with their current exhibitions. Currently running is the Insurgence/Resurgence featuring a large selection of Indigenous Artworks in a variety of media which by all accounts is spectacular.
This weekend, the WAG will also be party central for the annual art celebration Nuit Blanche which is one of my favorite nights of the year. Nuit Blanche is free which means it is accessible for all. Sometimes art (especially contemporary art) can feel inaccessible for the average person. Nuit Blanche is a chance to get rid of that idea. These artists create their works with a purpose whether its to change perceptions, provide commentary, or even a call to arms. Whatever the goal, these artworks typically need to be seen to have their designed impact. The yearly event is also an opportunity for these creatives to share their work with a broader audience. This also tends to be one of the last weekends to enjoy strolling around outside at night without a parka on so there is really no excuse not to go. Part of the event will be at the WAG, however you’ll find different things going on all over downtown, the Exchange and St. Boniface. You can find a full listing of events and works that will be on display here. If walking isn’t your thing, you may be interested in the Bike Jam. Even viewed as a pedestrian, the Bike Jam is an amazing thing to experience (as long as you’re not trying to cross the street.)
So there you have it: an introduction to the Winnipeg art scene and how this weekend is the perfect time for you to become personally acquainted with it.