During the COVID-19 pandemic, the West End Cultural Centre (WECC) has managed to run live virtual concerts, giving musicians a platform to perform. Their work did not go unnoticed: WECC was recognized for their efforts by the Western Canadian Music Awards by way of nominations in the categories of “Impact in Live Music” and “Impact in Music Marketing.”
Jorge Requena Ramos, artistic director of the WECC, says the award nominations are a significant honour for the organization.
The nominations “are very important awards for an organization of our size and an organization in Winnipeg competing with places in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton," Requena Ramos says.
When asked about putting on live virtual concerts in the middle of a pandemic, Requena Ramos says putting on virtual concerts in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t difficult, but it required more work than in-person events.
"It was an extra layer of work we needed to do for these presentations to turn the WECC into a television studio, to make sure that there was an infrastructure for the shows to look good."
Requena Ramos says the tricky process of livestreaming presented a particularly difficult obstacle.
"We were watching incredible artists perform from a cellphone in their living room ... They're used to performing on great stages. They'd have a crew. There's a lot of people there to prepare for the show. You know, checking on all the levels, making sure they sound and look amazing, and that was gone, so we wanted to find a way to provide that," Requena Ramos says.
Requena Ramos says the WECC wanted to "provide something that was original-looking, beautiful, great-sounding and dignifying for the artists, that also paid them money and allowed the audiences to come and see them."
Canadian senator Patricia Bovey is an art historian, former director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and an expert in Canadian cultural policy. She says the work of artists and arts venues has been extremely difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The arts were affected by COVID first. They shut down first, and ... unfortunately, I have to admit that I believe they're going to open last," Bovey says.
Bovey says she is immensely impressed with the WECC and their work.
"I can honestly tell you I have the greatest respect and admiration for the West End Cultural Centre, and I think the work they have done and are doing is stellar and I think is really, really important," she says.
Bovey says the work of the WECC is critical in supporting artists during the pandemic, especially in comparison to some other platforms.
"Internet platforms don't pay fees and aren't required to pay fees (to artists) the way performing centres are or broadcasting platforms are, and I think that has really disadvantaged artists,” she says.
"So when you talk about the West End Cultural Centre and their work, I can tell you it's doubly important, because a lot of the venues that artists have created for themselves, they may have (increased their) profile, but they have not given them any fees or income."
In a year filled with so many obstacles, the West End Cultural Centre has managed to provide artists with an opportunity to perform their work for audiences and to be able to support themselves by doing so.
The winners of the Western Canadian Music Awards will be announced in October. Follow breakoutwest.ca for updates.
Published in Volume 75, Number 25 of The Uniter (May 20, 2021)