Beyond downtown

A breakdown of the arts and culture coming out of some of Winnipeg’s neighbourhoods

  • Transcona: Leslie Sidley. – Supplied

  • St. Vital: Dakota Community Centre. – Nicholas Friesen

  • Wolseley: Jordsy. – Supplied

  • St. James: Local folk/roots wonder trio Bog River. – Supplied

  • Maples: Nick Petuhoff. – Supplied

  • St. Boniface: Lucille Levy. – Cheyenne Rae

  • St. Boniface: Roger Sutherland. – Dylan Hewlett

Click here to view a PDF version of this feature.

We here at The Uniter’s Arts & Culture section spend the better part of the year focusing on artists and the events that happen in the downtown area. From shows at the Lo Pub to exhibitions on the University of Winnipeg campus, there is a lot going on right here.

But where does this art and culture come from? Since nobody was born cool in the basement of the Royal Albert, we decided to find out what kind of great art was being made and what trends were happening all around Winnipeg.

Transcona

Leslie Sidley (pictured) has been busy, but if you’re not familiar with the name, don’t worry.

As a stage manager she’s responsible for the behind-the-scenes of many plays shown at The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Rainbow Stage, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Manitoba Theatre for Young People and Shakespeare In The Ruins.

A Transcona Collegiate alumni and a graduate of the Theatre Arts Technical Production program from Sheridan College, she is currently assistant stage managing Till It Hurts by Douglas Bowie at Prairie Theatre Exchange (which runs until April 15).

This summer, she will spend her seventh consecutive summer working behind the scenes at Rainbow Stage on their two-show season that consists of musical hits Footloose and Annie.

This feature wouldn’t be complete without Kara Passey - although she technically grew up just east of Transcona. A multimedia artist, she works with large-scale oil painting as well as installation and sculpture.

Working mostly with self-portraiture, she investigates her body and how obesity plays into her identity. You can discover her work at http://karapassey.tumblr.com.

If that wasn’t enough, when she’s not painting she fronts the Lemuria-inspired pop-punk band Fists In! Poppy power chords and catchy drumbeats are partnered with songs focused on feeling crappy about life and the world around you. The on-and-off four-piece released an album last summer that is available for free download at http://www.mediafire.com/?whetqkndnuk4q.

- Adam Petrash

St. Vital

I hate to break it to anyone who isn’t already aware - though if you’ve lived here or visited the area I’m sure you’d agree - St. Vital isn’t exactly the artsiest of neighbourhoods.

Yes, there are the constant craft sales at the Dakota Community Centre or at Norberry-Glenlee, where proud mamas offer up their delicious baked goods and crocheted handiwork to make a quick buck.

Not to mention the bevy of teenage basement dwellers in pop-punk bands itching to get out of their underground venues in River Park South.

Once they venture north up Dakota, onto Dunkirk and Osborne, all bets are off. Playing a venue like the Park Theatre is a rite of passage for any starving St. Vital artist.

If Dakota Collegiate graduates Inward Eye and recent Juno winners KEN mode can break out of St. Vital, there’s hope for the next generation.

Though what St. Vital may lack in creativity, it makes up for in sports fanaticism.

Be it the Jets or the ever-competitive Timbits leagues, hockey culture flourishes in the neighbourhood that spawned the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews.

Volleyball and soccer are St. Vital mainstays, but for avid fans there’s a new favourite on the rise: rugby.

Maple Grove Rugby Park, located along the southernmost point of St. Mary’s Road before the perimeter, is home to a unique kind of sporting experience that has gained greater popularity in recent years.

The Saracen Rugby Football Club’s annual tournament/drinking event, SNAFU, has been held at MGRP for every August long weekend since 1970.

The SNAFU social held Sunday night is the stuff of legend - so legendary, in fact, that rumours of naked rugby being played at midnight have circulated among the non-rugby community.

You’d have to see it to believe it, though you might not necessarily want to.

- Jessica Botelho-Urbanski

Wolseley

From Omand’s Creek to Sherbrook Street and Portage Avenue to the Assiniboine River, Wolseley is not a big place, but it’s home to a healthy and diverse artistic community.

In fact, according to Canadian census data from 2001, artists constitute two per cent of the work force in Wolseley’s R3G postal code, a number more than double the national average and the highest of all Winnipeg’s postal codes.

That’s no surprise to Jim Palmquist, founder and coordinator of the Envision Wolseley Arts and Music Festival.

In its fifth year, the festival attracts hundreds of visitors to see the work of more than 50 artists, including visual arts, performances and some literary works.

This year will see a greater focus on writers and storytellers as well as a mini film festival.

“The intent was to showcase the huge number of artists that live in our community,” says Palmquist of the festival’s origins. “We knew that there were a lot, but most people don’t know that they’re there.”

While the festival does accept artists from the surrounding communities if there is room, the focus is on the Wolseley and West Broadway communities.

“We wanted to give people a chance to show their stuff and build up community pride and interest in the arts,” Palmquist says.

He says that Wolseley feels like a suburb in the heart of the city with its old character houses and close proximity to downtown, but notes that it is difficult to explain the huge number of artists in the community.

The Envision festival runs Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12 at Robert A. Steen Community Centre, including the evening on Friday and the full day and evening on Saturday. Admission is free.

One of the featured musical acts is Jordsy (pictured).

Visit www.jordsymusic.blogspot.com and www.envisionartsfestival.ca.

- Aaron Snider

St. James

Growing up in St. James felt a little like a National Lampoon’s high school experience. There were elaborate school pranks, pep rallies and hockey rookie parties. These eventually gave way to a number of dollar draft nights, bar fights and an embarrassing amount of provocative themed socials.

Thankfully, I got out of Pleasantville alive.

But there are those who would live by the sword - who rarely venture out of what is, mostly, a self-sustaining community (but are sure to lock the cars when passing Polo Park and into the “red zone”).

However, some say that culture is slowly creeping into St. James.

A fellow native St. Jameser referred to the “multicultural strip” beginning at Moray with a Japanese sushi place, followed by German, Chinese, Irish and Mexican restaurants, and ending with Thai.

To catch a little local colour, head to Skatepark West to see the thriving young skate scene St. James has developed over the last couple of years.

If that’s not your thing, check out AAA Consignment and the Goodwill down by Cavalier.

There is a handful of little antiques shops too, for some of the best thrifting in the city. In that respect, the lack of hip masses is kind of a bonus.

For the high-brow culture seeker, there still really isn’t much to pick from. There aren’t any decent music venues, save for an old pub that probably hasn’t changed a light bulb since I stopped going underage.

...Which is too bad, because St. James isn’t lacking in talent.

Local folk/roots wonder trio Bog River (pictured) had its humble beginnings here, as did another fine young trio - the Eardrums. Both groups have managed to find a place quite nicely in Winnipeg’s indie music scene.

However, the best part of St. James? The Half Pints beer of the same name. Last I heard, we were one of the only communities in the city graced with that honour.

How’s that for culture?

- Dunja Kovacevic

Maples

Maples Collegiate may not have the budget of Grant Park’s elaborate musicals, but year after year, it delivers something different.

From productions of zombie classic Night of the Living Dead to teen dramedy Some Kind of Wonderful, each show is something you won’t find in any other high school theatre.

This semester’s show is Clue, based on the 1985 film (based on the board game) with a cast made up of Grade 9 to Grade 12 students. Catch it one night only - Thursday, April 12 at 7 p.m.

“It’s more interesting when you can dive into more obscure pieces,” says math teacher Scott Mader, who is involved with the production. “The classics are good and enjoyable to do, but with Clue you can get into some nice comedy and characters. It’s more interesting for the students.”

Each show has been led by teachers Susan Kurbis and Lindsay Brown, who have been known to spend incredibly long hours working with students to bring these shows to life.

“It’s a lot of work, so when they bring it down into smaller shows it allows them to do two a year,” Mader says. “Sue has more the image of the show in her mind whereas Lindsay does more of the backstage work. When we’re running rehearsals, they tend to swap and split the work.”

“My last show at Maples, Batman: The Musical, was probably the one that stood out the most for me,” says recent graduate Nick Petuhoff (pictured), who played the Joker in the ‘60s throwback.

“Who doesn’t want to laugh like a maniac, squirt water into kids’ faces and wear ridiculous clown make-up all at the same time? It was probably the most rewarding experience I had at Maples because it allowed me to see my growth as an actor over four years of high school theatre, and it showed me just how much I wanted to pursue acting as a profession.”

Since graduating from Maples last spring, Petuhoff enrolled at the University of Manitoba and was a part of Black Hole Theatre’s The Gypsy Woman and the Fire in the Hole Festival.

“I find that Maples gave me the acting basics that I needed to have and now I’m constantly building upon them with every show or shoot that I’m involved with.”

- Nicholas Friesen

Saint Boniface

The Francophone neighbourhood of Saint Boniface has always been a major thread in Winnipeg’s city fabric and a major contributor to the arts in Winnipeg.

Métis artist Roger Sutherland (pictured) was born and raised in Saint Boniface.

“I remember when a lot of Saint Boniface was farmers’ fields

I went to the Provencher School, run by the Brothers of Mary,” he says.

A lot has changed since then. Saint Boniface has grown into a burgeoning arts community that is seeing new immigrants from the French-speaking countries of Africa

Later in life, Sutherland unfolded his passion for art and found in Saint Boniface a great community of supportive artists.

“I receive a lot of encouragement from (semi-realistic/abstract artist) Roger Lafreniere, and he gives me lot of influence.”

With other great artists such as Melanie Recon and Dave Manuien there is no shortage of support.

Lucille Levy (pictured) hails from Paris, France. Coming to Saint Boniface was a natural fit for her.

“I first came here because I followed love, but that was not to be, so I stayed here because I fell in love with the neighbourhood.”

She secured a job as communications coordinator with the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre (CCFM).

“It really helps to be able to live and work in a community that enables me to speak French on a daily basis.”

Levy is busy with the day-to-day operations of CCFM, organizing and scheduling art shows, concerts and community events.

“CCFM is the centre (of it all),” she says. “It can be confusing for some, but within the CCFM there are 10 agencies promoting and supporting francophone artists and culture.”

There are also up and coming artists from Morocco and Algeria and other French-African artists displaying and performing.

“The Francophone face is changing here in Saint Boniface and it is a very good thing we have to be open to other French cultures and it is exciting to be part of this diverse and ever-evolving culture here.”

- John Van Laar

Published in Volume 66, Number 26 of The Uniter (April 5, 2012)

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