The Show Must Go On

The West End Cultural Centre is a venue with a vision

Sherwin Opena

Among all of the new businesses cropping up in West Broadway and the West End, there is one familiar old mainstay with a colourful facade that rarely fails to draw a crowd.

Located at the corner of Ellice and Sherbrook, the West End Cultural Centre (WECC) is a Winnipeg musical institution. In its 28 years of existence, the venue has had the ability to consistently evolve while always striving for what is best for the community and for the music.

In September of 2014, Jack Jonasson - formerly of another Winnipeg institution, The Lo Pub (RIP) - took the helm and began running the show at the respected venue.

“It’s where my heart is and where my head is,” Jonasson says of his position as WECC general manager. “Having the opportunity to be back around music and working for an organization that I have very strong ties to in my own musical history is very exciting for me.”

One of the first shows Jonasson put his own money into happened 15 years ago at the WECC and he’s been involved in one way or another ever since. From playing numerous times to attending countless releases of records he’s had a hand in creating, Jonasson has always felt a close connection to the renovated church. 

Five years ago the venue went through a massive overhaul. All of the amenities were upgraded while the exterior and the energy of the beloved venue were carefully preserved.

“When the renos were done there was a lot of thought and energy put into the design of the room,” Jonasson says. “They wanted it to be a great venue to play music in and also to see music in.”

That included amping up the sound system.

“I’ve had artists say they wished they could pack up the system and take it on tour with them,” artistic director Jason Hooper explains. 

Apart from the acoustic features of the venue, the WECC also boasts an incredibly diverse musical lineup, partnerships with other Winnipeg organizations such as the Winnipeg Folk Festival and extensive community outreach work.

“The WECC isn’t just a live music venue,” Jonasson notes. “It’s a place that provides programming and opportunities for kids that wouldn’t otherwise be given the chance.”

One program the WECC plays host to is the Tune-In Musical Mentorship. The event happens twice a week and provides kids living in the area access to musical instruments and the freedom to create in a safe and supportive environment.

“Seeing the amount of excitement and talent coming out of these kids is amazing,” Jonasson says. “I’ve seen it have such a positive effect on the kids and how they exist in the world.”

Along with putting more energy into community programming, Jonasson hopes to foster more relationships with community organizations.

“That’s a really important thing for me,”Jonasson states. “Spreading beyond just musical performances and expanding our reach to other creative disciplines.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 14, 2015)

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