Whose House? Curtis’s House.

Curtis L. Wiebe could certainly be described as a Renaissance Man. In addition to being one of Winnipeg’s most interesting filmmakers, Wiebe is an accomplished artist, actor, art teacher, puppeteer, sculptor, musician and mixed media artist. His films creatively blur the line between live action, puppetry and animation, and his 2014 short Of Truth and Magic is one of my favourites of the year.

Wiebe’s downtown house, built in 1902, does double duty as a home and workshop for his creative projects. 

“My wife Julie and I moved in about six years ago,” Wiebe says. “At the time I was building stuff, and it was getting too big for the apartment. The house was part of a city development plan where they would look at old houses, take all the guts out and put them back together for first-time home buyers. It was great, because I was a student at the time, so it really fit our budget.

“My neighbours are great resources,” Wiebe says of his beloved neighbourhood. “Two of them are contractors, so I get all sorts of great knickknacks from them. Old radios and stuff. Lots of great prop material.”

1) Fan-made sculpture

“My brother and I had this band called The Secondhand Pants. I played ukulele and he played the bucket bass. My brother’s character was Will Maynard. He was adopted by aliens. I was Francis Leonard, who was raised by wild Saskatchewan prairie goats. I have a picture of us on our fridge. We also had two robots. The big one is named Liftor, because he lifts things.”

2) Props from Of Truth and Magic

“These props were tools in The Department of Unusual Occurrences. The ones on the shelf I called ‘communicatrons.’ So, they’re telephones. The typewriter has a little laser projector inside, and it projects a pattern on the opaque, translucent thing on top.”

3) Dragon costume

“This dragon was a Halloween costume project I did with a friend. I went as The Garbage Knight. We made the dragon out of rags, so we called him a Ragon.”

4) Jukebox

“The thing The Secondhand Pants were best known for was this giant jukebox. It’s a small stage, but completely enclosed. We’d haul it out to Folk Fest and play music inside. You’d put your money in, and a flap opened to three bicycle horns labeled ‘happy’, ‘sad’ or ‘random’. You’d pick one and we’d play a song in that mood. It’s in pieces now, this is just the base, but it’s eight feet tall when all put together.”

5) Garbage Knight suit of armor

“It’s a suit of armor made of tin cans and stuff like that. I think I might make a few more parts and turn it into a freestanding sculpture.”

6) Recording studio/edit bay

“My idea was to make a soundproof room-within-a-room so I could do voice and instrument recording and not have room noise. I originally built it totally enclosed with four walls. I put a hatch in the top for some air, and a door in the back. At a certain point it wasn’t practical, so I opened it up. The foam is all cut-offs from a small furniture factory.

Published in Volume 69, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 12, 2014)

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