The Uniter 30

Dylan Hewlett

We made a list and we checked it twice. Our special feature “The Uniter 30” in the Dec. 2, 2010 issue of The Uniter was such a success that we decided to do it all over again.

The goal of this piece was to once again feature, in no particular order, a group of Manitobans who are 30 years old or younger who are making a difference and impacting their community in some way, or who are outstanding in their field – whatever that field may be.

This year, we asked for your help. More than 25 readers wrote in with a total of 30 suggestions, most of which are included in this feature.

Uniter staff and contributors came up with an additional 35 people, meaning the list you’ll see in the following pages was whittled down from more than 60 suggestions.

The list includes humanitarians, activists, entrepreneurs, community workers, visual artists, filmmakers, athletes, musicians, journalists, bloggers, actors, comedians, politicians and more.

Other than the criteria that these people are making a difference in their community and/or are outstanding in their field, there wasn’t much else to go by when we were making our decisions.

At the end of the day, we picked people we think you’ll enjoy reading about.

We’re already starting to think about next year, and we’re always looking for suggestions. Who’s making a difference in Winnipeg, and who would you like to read about?

Let us know.

View the PDF version here.

Amanda Furst

The African Architect

Amanda Furst isn’t exactly sure which side of her family she gets her philanthropic impulse from, but she’s not ignoring it.

In the two years since she formed Growing Opportunities International, or GO!, the 28-year-old has built a nursery school in Rwanda and is working on a shelter and school for street children and orphans in Tanzania.

GO! is a non-profit organization that supports individuals in East Africa who are working to improve their communities, Furst says.

“The idea of helping others was instilled by my parents. They were very generous and involved in the community, helping out in any way they could,” she says, adding she was encouraged to volunteer as a child.

Furst first visited Africa in 2005, after graduating from the University of Winnipeg. She spent three and a half years volunteering before launching GO!

“I’ve always really liked African culture, and had an interest in helping children, so I put the two together,” she says.

In January, Furst leaves for Tanzania to start construction on Hero Home, a school for 150 street kids in the northern part of the African country. She’s fundraised more than half of the project’s $50,000 price tag.

“We have the land and enough money to get started,” she says.

When Hero Home is complete, Furst plans to stay in Africa and base her operations there.

After all, that’s where her heart is.

“Our goal is to always be committed to quality projects,” she says. “Until we know Hero Home is sustainable and running smoothly, we’re not too focused on what comes next.”

Matt Preprost

Adrienne Fainman

The mathematician

When young mathematics student Adrienne Fainman first walked into Art City on Broadway Street, she had no idea the local community centre would soon house “the world’s largest spirograph.”

“I heard about Art City and I went to them just to find out if they knew of a good space ... and they said, ‘Just do it with us,’” she says, adding she found out about the centre through her work for Specialized Adolescent Treatment Homes (SATH).

A spirograph is a geometric drawing tool that is used to create complex symmetrical shapes.

After receiving one as a gift, Fainman began scheming with members of a math student group at the University of Winnipeg to create a large-scale version of the toy.

In the Art City space, Fainman did just that, building what she estimates to be the largest spirograph ever constructed.

Now 23, Fainman has graduated in both mathematics and philosophy at the U of W, even studying one summer in New York with her late grandfather, the renowned mathematician Jacob T. Schwartz.

For an entire year, she studied math and philosophy in Moscow at the Higher School of Economics and Independent University of Moscow and is currently taking courses in architecture at the San Francisco Institute of Architecture as she awaits the results of graduate school applications.

Despite her wealth of travel and experience, Fainman plans to return to Winnipeg community work once she earns a master’s degree in architecture, adding that her time working in the inner city was remarkably valuable.

“I want to explore more projects like I did with the spirograph, except architectural,” she says. “I want to bring my math and my art into it and I want to be working with the inner city.”

Ethan Cabel

Vinay Iyer

The Accomplished Entrepreneur

Most people make their burritos with rice and beans, but Vinay Iyer makes his with ambition and creativity.

For three years, Iyer, a University of Winnipeg alumnus, and his business partner Sam Engelking, have been delighting university students and businesspeople alike with fresh Mexican cuisine at their Portage Avenue taqueria, Casa Burrito.

Iyer, 26, graduated from high school and moved to Sudbury, Ont., by himself from Mumbai, India, when he was only 15.

He met Engelking while working for a web design company in Toronto where the like-minded pair began scheming a way to start their own business. On one hungry night, it was decided that they should open a restaurant.

“We always knew we wanted to be business partners,” Iyer says.

Iyer opened Casa Burrito in September 2008, when he was still studying at the U of W. At the time, he was also on the school’s board of regents and was the president of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association - a position that let him spearhead the opening of Soma Café and get a taste of the restaurant business.

The funky burrito joint has thrived because of the owners’ philosophy in keeping the business local and involved in the community. These ventures include locally sourced produce, and advantageous partnerships with several local businesses.

“By supporting each other, all local businesses can fight against corporations,” says Iyer.

Yet, even with his current list of accomplishments, Iyer is looking toward future endeavours, some of which include a food truck and a franchise. He also hopes to one day sit on the Downtown BIZ’s board of directors. 

Eva Wasney

Tom Sherwin

The Athlete with the Midas touch

After he led Team Manitoba’s canoe/kayak team to claim 15 medals at the Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops, B.C. this past July, is it any wonder this guy’s last name is pronounced, “sure win”?

The 19-year-old himself received five gold medals, which he can add to the collection of 10 medals he earned in 11 events at the WCSG in 2007 in Sherwood Park, Alta.

Tom Sherwin was also Team Manitoba’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremonies of the 2011 games.

“It was pretty cool,” Sherwin says. “I was pretty nervous. There’s this thing called ‘flag-bearer’s curse’ where usually the athlete who is flag-bearer for opening ceremonies is expected to do really well … but they (don’t). But everything went OK.”

Is Sherwin always this humble? You’d think a 19-year-old this athletically gifted and accomplished would be standing on a rooftop at a party somewhere shouting, “I am a golden god!”

But paddling competitively is something Sherwin has been doing since he was 13 years old, two years after he picked up the sport.

While his training regimen leading up to the games was intense, Sherwin says the hard work was worth it.

“It felt really good. We had some really unexpected and good results with the team we brought, and it was really exciting.”

As for what exactly the future holds, Sherwin is uncertain. Right now, he’s enjoying studying fine arts at the University of Manitoba, where he runs with the track team.

Competing in the Olympics might be nice.

“It’s something that every athlete aspires to,” he says.

Aaron Epp

Stefanie Hiebert and Erin Thiessen

The Vintage Fashionistas

A little over a year ago, Stefanie Hiebert, 26, and Erin Thiessen, 24, were working at Para Mix in Osborne Village. Wanting something more, they started a vintage fashion blog, That eventually turned into a mobile shop in an adorable 1956 trailer, also called Oh So Lovely, that toured local festivals this past summer.

“We started working on the trailer in the winter,” Thiessen says. “Our husbands gutted the thing.”

After an interview in the taste-making magazine Bust, things started to snowball for the blog. Then, while set up in the Winnipeg Fringe Festival’s street market, Vintage Glory owner Doug Shand made Hiebert and Thiessen an offer they couldn’t refuse.

“He came in one day and he’s like, ‘What’s your long-term goal?’ and we knew it would be to open up our own shop,” Hiebert says. “He’s like, ‘Why don’t you move in here?’”

Only there since August, the Vintage Glory team is already expanding to a new store, Rhymes With Orange, that will not only feature clothes, but housewares as well.

“We were meant to move next door and the day we were finished construction the landlord kind of pulled that one out from under our feet and we started scrambling,” Hiebert says.

Despite having the brick and mortar shop, the girls will still be hitting the road next summer.

“We’re in the perfect place where we get to do both,” Hiebert says. “We love the shop because you’re coming to work, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, but we plan on using the trailer for many summers to come.”

Nicholas Friesen

Niki Ashton

The Prime-Minister-in-waiting

At 29 years old, Niki Ashton has already served three years as an NDP member of parliament for the riding of Churchill and now hopes to become the leader of the official opposition party in the House of Commons.

“One of the reasons why I’m running for the leadership is that I believe that we can bring so much of what we do here in Manitoba to the federal level,” she says.

Ashton graduated from the University of Manitoba in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in global political economy and went on to earn her master’s degree in international affairs at Carleton University.

Two years later, she found herself running as the NDP candidate for Churchill in the 2008 federal election at the age of 26, becoming the youngest woman elected to that parliament.

In May 2011, she was re-elected.

According to Ashton, what drove her into public life was the realization that Canada’s most potent struggles are domestic, rather than global, in nature.

“People living in remote First Nations (communities) are living in Third World conditions ... there is a lot of work we need to be doing at the local level,” she says.

Up until entering the NDP leadership race in early November with her “new politics” campaign slogan, Ashton was the chair of the standing committee on the status of women in the House of Commons.

She continues to act as a vocal advocate for the involvement of young people in parliamentary politics.

“The reality is, our generation is expressing political opinions, but we (the NDP) need to build that bridge between politics and social movements. We need to build that bridge between inside parliament and outside parliament.”

Ethan Cabel

Faiza Juhar Weday Hargaaya

The Community Ambassador

Since 2009, Faiza Juhar Weday Hargaaya has been involved with African Communities of Manitoba Inc. as a teacher’s assistant and youth programs co-ordinator, while also performing at Folklorama and pursuing her spoken word poetry.

Originally from Oromia, Ethiopia, Hargaaya arrived in Canada in 1989. During a visit to Oromia after high school, Hargaaya was inspired to become a humanitarian.

“I loved the culture and the community, but I couldn’t turn my eye to the poverty, especially the poverty surrounding children in the area,” says Hargaaya, 25.

Hargaaya received an international development studies degree at the University of Winnipeg, and returned to Oromia for a six-month term with Khulafa Al-Rashidin Orphanage Aid and Development (KAROAD).

Hargaaya works as the assistant co-ordinator for the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba’s (IRCOM) After School Program, and is an IRCOM Ambassador.

Hargaaya says IRCOM Ambassadors work to change negative perceptions about newcomers by sharing their own experiences.

“All the information (about newcomers) people get is from the media and the news, and what’s on the news isn’t success stories,” Hargaaya says.

Hargaaya has also shared her spoken word poetry at the Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute and World Refugee Day, among other events.

Hargaaya’s poetry tackles issues affecting Canadian newcomers.

Refugee, a poem Hargaaya performed on the CBC, describes how introducing someone as a refugee tells a painful story without permission of the subject.

“Refugee - it means you were driven from your country. It wasn’t by a choice, there’s a lot of pain attached to it,” she says.

Amy Groening

Tyler Funk

The Moving Image Guru

“I always wanted to be an illustrator,” says 25-year-old Tyler Funk. “As I got older I started playing with my parent’s video camera, working with stop-motion animation–animating my G.I. Joes and stuff like that.”

Now a full-time freelance camera operator and film editor, as well as a creative filmmaker and photographer, Funk says that photos and films are simply one extension of his love for visual expression.

“With a camera I was able to achieve what I couldn’t with drawing,” Funk says. “There is a lot more depth and I was able to say more with photography and film.”

Funk separates his work into two parts. His “corporate side” pays the bills making commercials and training videos for various companies, while his creative side is both a form of self-administered therapy and a chance to explore a more experimental use of imagery.

This past year has been a big one. In the summer, Funk worked on the crew of Randy Frykas’s Jets documentary White Noise, and he directed and filmed a music video for The Liptonians’ latest single, Destroy, Destroy, Destroy.

His photography captures a dark yet profound sense of his subjects, a consistent effect even over a wide range of subject matter. He attributes his well-developed style to an unrestricted creative environment as he was getting into the art form.

“I just shot whatever came to mind,” he says. “I was really blessed with having friends around that supported my odd ideas, friends that were willing to model for me and stuff like that.”

Aaron Snider

Shoni Shukster Litinsky

The Active Transport Advocate

Shoni Shukster Litinsky is one of the driving forces behind Winnipeg’s first car sharing cooperative, Peg City Car Co-op.

At 25, Litinsky is the youngest member of the co-op’s board.

In the planning stages, trying to figure out the needs of car drivers was a bit of a challenge, given that none of them actually drove cars. But with no knowledge of how to start a co-op, or any kind of business, they went ahead.

“There was this group of people that really believed in something,” she says.

After three years, they now have 65 members sharing three cars. Litinsky hopes the project will grow beyond the Osborne Village neighbourhood.

“I hope to see a shift away from people clinging to their own vehicle,” she says.

Litinsky works for Green Action Centre’s Active and Safe Routes to School program.

Getting more kids to go to school the way their parents did, by foot or bike, takes more than just inspiring the students - it involves creating a community where parents feel it’s safe for kids to travel on their own.

A big step for the program has been getting the city’s transportation planners and traffic engineers to care about creating safe routes to school.

Litinsky believes active transportation is not about losing something, but being healthier and more connected to community.

“(It’s about) sustainable happiness, making your choices so that you’re happy, but they’re better for the world and your community, and yourself,” she says.

Anne Thomas

Tessa Vanderhart

The Journalist

Tessa Vanderhart, 25, is the online editor for the Winnipeg Sun, former editor-in-chief of The Manitoban, the founding member of the Manitoban Alumni Society and the host of Internet Pundits, a popular radio show on 101.5 UMFM.

Vanderhart hopes to create a scholarship through the Manitoban Alumni Society, an organization that’s dedicated to supporting the education of aspiring journalists in Manitoba.

“Almost every career has a support system in Manitoba except journalism,” she says. “We want to make the experience of student journalists in the province better by creating scholarships, internships, a speaker series and other events.”

Though the organization is primarily made up of Manitoban alumni, it aims to cater to students from across the province.

Vanderhart says her radio show was conceived in an effort to fill the gap left by the departure of Marty Gold’s 92.9 KICK-FM radio show, The Great Canadian Talk Show.

Realizing Winnipeg is ripe with articulate bloggers, Vanderhart decided her show should showcase their commentary. Thus, Winnipeg Internet Pundits, airing every Wednesday at 5 p.m., was born.

“A few years ago, when the Metro didn’t exist and Uptown wasn’t focusing on news, everyone started writing blogs,” she says. “Now, there is a professionalization of blogs going on in the city and I want to try to present that.”

Vanderhart believes journalists should be well versed in both print and broadcast.

“Sitting in a room with someone and hearing them talk is energizing,” she says. “Whereas in print, you can reflect on things and use logic and reason to come to conclusions.”

Chris Hunter

Jon McPhail and Rheanna Melnick

The Ground-Breaking Bun Buffs

At 29 years old, Jon McPhail and Rheanna Melnick created Jonnies Sticky Buns to escape the unfair social structure of commercial kitchens.

“We both have not enjoyed the hierarchy of a lot of kitchens, so we wanted to have our own where we could just do what we want to do and be the way we want to be,” McPhail says.

Since their grand opening in December 2010, this boutique bun bakery has become well-known in Winnipeg, garnering features in Uptown, the Winnipeg Free Press, CBC and even here in the pages of The Uniter.

McPhail and Melnick estimate they have made almost 100,000 buns since they opened, and have invented many different flavours, including the Shat Bun - a bun partially designed by William Shatner himself.

“People have gotten excited that you can put different things in them,” says Melnick. “People are always coming in and saying ‘Have you tried this?’”

Part of Jonnies’ success is due to the variety of marketing techniques McPhail and Melnick employ, from cheeky bun-themed posters and bun-baking contests to a strong online presence.

The pair intends to expand Jonnies eventually, and hopes to be catering weddings by next season.

When they aren’t cooking up innovative bun creations, Melnick and McPhail are involved in a range of other artistic projects.

McPhail is in a band called John Vaude and the Villains, and Melnick performs with Feed the Birds.

Melnick is also a puppeteer, performing with The Cruppets in daycares and hosting events when she has time.

Amy Groening

Anika Terton

The Climate Advocate

As you read this, Anika Terton is in Durban, South Africa, keeping a sharp eye on the performance of Canada’s government negotiators at the 17th conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Terton, 25, is one of 20 young people from across Canada who raised their own funds to participate in the Canadian Youth Delegation. The delegation is there to remind negotiators about whose future is at stake, and to report on the proceedings by newsletter, blog and podcast.

Terton came to the University of Winnipeg from Germany as an exchange student in 2008.

“For me, being from Europe and coming here and seeing this precious landscape and this amazing nature, it was hard for me to understand why people don’t care,” she says. “I was shocked to find out how much less the environment is an issue here.”

Terton was so amazed that she wrote her political science master’s thesis on Canadian climate change policy.

Now, when she’s not tracking international negotiations, she works as a public awareness and outreach coordinator at Climate Change Connection, getting the word out that through climate-friendly lifestyle changes, Manitobans can benefit their health, save money and improve their communities.

In September, she helped organize Winnipeg’s Moving Planet event, one of about 1,700 around the world, coordinated by The event was a mass celebration of foot and bike power in support of moving the planet beyond reliance on fossil fuels.

“I always believe that youth are the driver of change,” Terton says.

Anne Thomas

Julie Donaldson

The Caregiver

At 30, Julie Donaldson has amassed quite a resumé.

Before finishing her commerce degree from the University of Manitoba, she became a franchise co-owner of Home Instead Senior Care (HISC)

“I thought it was a really good business opportunity that had a lot of meaning,” she says. “It was something I could do and go home at the end of the day knowing I’ve made a difference.”

Donaldson has also initiated the Be a Santa to a Senior program, a voluntary program run through HISC.

“It’s a way to give back to the community, give back to seniors–seniors that don’t necessarily have someone who visits them during the holidays, or have the means to buy gifts this year,” Donaldson says.

Last year they managed to raise more than 500 gifts for the program. This year, they had already raised 550 gifts by the end of November.

This was also a banner year for Donaldson as she received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for excellence in business from the Women Business Owners of Manitoba.

Donaldson is also very involved in the community, sitting as president of the Manitoba Caregiver Coalition and treasurer of Rupert’s Land Caregiver Services.

Donaldson’s passion for helping seniors and their caregivers is something that stems from her personal experiences.

“I was very close with my grandparents, having been there with them through their changes, and I wanted to help other caregivers through theirs,” she says.

Chloe Ross-Rogerson

Dayna Danger

The Photographer

Some photographers give a song and dance about how they’ve been a shutterbug since the doctor slapped them on the ass after birth. However, 24-year-old feminist photog Dayna Danger certainly doesn’t.

“My uncle in Vancouver had a camera and he FedEx-ed it to me the day before my first photo class,” she laughs.

Danger was originally enrolled in the University of Manitoba’s fine arts program for sculpture, but that didn’t stick.

“With photography you have your negatives or your digital files. They were compact and little, but you could make them really big. (With sculpture) I made a 12-foot tree out of tar and I’m like, ‘Well, now that this is done, what do I do with it?’ It went in the garbage.”

For the last two years, Danger (who refuses to divulge her real name) has been working on a series called Bad Girls, partly inspired by Devi, the nude goddess. The images depict empowered women in all forms, from dominatrix to a suicide club and even a bearded lady.

“I think I have 17 right now and there’s only 11 or 12 on the website. At least I have a website, OK artists out there?”

The goal is eventually to do a gallery showing, but for now, Danger is content with just making the art.

“A lot of artists are speaking about issues that are important to them and hopefully those issues are important to others,” she says. “I find it’s more gratifying when I make something that I’m more passionate about. When people like it, that’s the bonus.”

Nicholas Friesen

Julian Bradford

The Multi-faceted Musician

Even if you don’t recognize his name, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard Julian Bradford’s bass playing before.

That’s because the 28-year-old has played with a variety of local musicians spanning a variety of genres, including soul artist Flo, singer-songwriters Michael Peters and James Struthers, hip-hop group Magnum K.I. and jazz vets like Jeff Presslaff, Walle Larsson and Keith Price.

Bradford has also recorded with Austin Brown, a singer who happens to be the nephew of Michael Jackson. This gig gave Bradford the opportunity to lay tracks down with one of his favourite drummers, Vinnie Colaiuta.

“It was quite an honour,” Bradford says.

The gig with Austin Brown helped Bradford to land a recording gig with Kenny G.

All of this studio activity is in addition to being a key member of Moses Mayes, a band currently in the studio putting together a new record.

“It’s really fun building songs from the ground up with them,” Bradford says. “It’s very freeing.”

Bradford plays stand-up bass in addition to the electric bass, and is also adept at the cello. He recently completed a soundtrack on that instrument for the ABC documentary Waging Peace.

Bradford wrote the music for the film with his girlfriend, singer-songwriter Dana Kowalsky (a.k.a. Bean).

Bradford has a couple tours coming up in the new year, including one with local group The Crooked Brothers.

“I’m working on a bunch of different things month to month, so that keeps things interesting,” he says.

One can only imagine that Bradford has many interesting things to do yet in his already accomplished career.

Trevor Graumann

Fabrizio Di Muro

The Professor

Hailing from Italy, but raised in Brandon, Man., 30-year-old Fabrizio “Fab” Di Muro is one of the most exciting young professors in Winnipeg, and he’s making a profound impact upon not only his students, but on his field as a whole.

Born with an innate gift of communication, Di Muro graduated from Brandon University in 2003 as valedictorian, and quickly moved up the academic ranks to a full-time position in the University of Winnipeg’s business and administration department.

“I was always interested in teaching and conducting research,” Di Muro says. “I began teaching in July 2010… (and) it feels great because I picked the right job, and I feel at home doing it.”

Di Muro attended the University of Western Ontario for graduate school, earning a master’s degree in financial math, and eventually a doctorate in marketing.

His passion for the field of study translates to teaching.

“I wake up at 6:30 a.m. and I’m very excited to go to work. I never feel out of place in the classroom.”

Aside from teaching, Di Muro is also engaged with continuing research on how money operates within human societies. Recently, he was recognized at a conference of the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada for an essay he wrote on marketing.

To Di Muro, there is only one secret to being a successful teacher and positive influence on his students.

“Energy and enthusiasm goes a long way. I actually want to be there, I want my students to succeed,” he says. “Everything I do in class is a way to engage in an entertaining way.”

Harrison Samphir

Sarah Michaelson

The DJ

Winnipeg’s local DJ hero Sarah Michaelson is constantly pushing the boundaries of her art form. Under the pseudonym Mama Cutsworth, the 29-year-old has been entertaining Winnipeggers for years with unique dance events and theme parties.

Since she started professionally in 2004, her turntable talents have been integrated with numerous other acts.

Michaelson has worked alongside DJ Hunnicut, providing a live soundtrack for local improv comedy duo Crumbs.

“It’s challenging but it’s also a lot of fun” says Michaelson. “They have world class talent. It’s a really refreshing way to DJ.”

Michaelson has also recorded vocally with Luis Francisco Cardona’s Solidaze project. She took vocal lessons during her adolescence as well as piano.

In 2011, Michaelson celebrated the 10th anniversary of Stylus Radio, the weekly funk and soul program she produces and hosts on CKUW 95.9 FM.

The multitalented Winnipegger has used her innate musicality to do far more than just entertain with her originally diverse DJ sets, she’s also strengthened the Winnipeg community.

Striving to make her music accessible to everyone is one of Michaelson’s greatest feats. She recently co-ordinated the Baby Dance Party, which is an event where parents can take their children to listen to a variety of music. All the proceeds of the event went to The Family Food Group.

Michaelson is currently organizing her pet project, Drop the Needle, which is a monthly crafting/party series that will get community members off their couches and into a social environment.

“It’s a good wintery thing to do,” she says of the event series, which takes place at the Lo Pub.

Derek Loewen

Jodie Layne

The Feminist

At 22, Jodie Layne is living proof that passion and wholehearted faith in a cause can be a recipe for resounding success.

Born in small-town Manitoba, Layne became active in Winnipeg’s feminist community upon returning from a six-month stay in Malaysia.

“Everything I’ve been doing has come together in the last 13 months,” she says. “I felt like something had changed after travel, and I realized, this is it - these are the people that I want to help.”

Since then, Layne has transformed her travel experiences and exposure to the global community into a full-time commitment to Winnipeg women, and the pursuit of a new awareness among all marginalized people the world over.

“I am a very passionate person. How I can be a service to others is most important,” she says. “Using (my) voice for positive change is elemental for me.”

Layne has been nothing short of instrumental in bolstering the feminist community in Winnipeg.

From becoming director of the Global Women’s Network, to earning a core position at the feminist collective FemRev, to establishing a Winnipeg chapter of HollaBack!, Layne has effectively connected women with a resource base to share, pinpointed common issues and empowered young girls across the city.

Perhaps what is most inspiring, though, is Layne’s incessant commitment to Winnipeg women, and her dedication to a movement that she hopes will initiate broader awareness and equality.

“There are a lot of amazing women with real struggles in this city,” she says. “It is difficult, but we are changing the vision of what’s possible.”

Harrison Samphir

Jesse Krause

The Go-to Player

“My calling is to play music, that’s when I am most comfortable,” explains 26-year-old Jesse Krause. “I need to play music… this is who I am, and this is where I get my energy from, my inspiration.”

Krause is a 2010 graduate of Canadian Mennonite University with a degree in music. A classically trained cellist, Krause has also devoted much of his time to classical guitar, as well as rock guitar and violin.

Krause is the main songwriter, musical director, guitarist and lead singer in Flying Fox and the Hunter-Gatherers (FFHG), a band whose music is a smattering of many things including jazz, indie and big band. In 2011, the sextet of classically trained musicians released its debut LP, Hans My Lion, which was met with critical acclaim.

On the album, Krause played all of the string parts himself, save for the small orchestra, which he composed the parts for and conducted in the studio.

“It stimulates the imagination,” Krause says of music. “These are important things that people need to have in order to have good lives. So when you listen to imaginative music, it inspires more imagination, hopefully prods them in a direction of thinking more creatively in their own lives.”

FFHG also conceived a rock opera based on the children’s book, Where The Wild Things Are, which was a part of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival in 2010.

The plan for the future is to keep doing more of the same.

“We will be at numerous festivals in Western Canada this summer, looking forward to playing our diverse musical styles,” Krause says.

John Van Laar

Matt Opalko

The Humanitarian Hoopster

Former University of Winnipeg Wesmen basketball captain Matt Opalko, 26, never wants to stop learning, and the kids he helps put through school in Swaziland have become his greatest motivation to keep it up.

In 2010, Opalko, and his wife Amanda, both of whom are teachers and graduates from the U of W, were inspired to help the South African country, which has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world.

The couple’s efforts culminated in Hoops for Swaziland, a two-day charity basketball tournament.

Opalko’s original goal was to raise $10,000 over 10 years to pay for tuition and uniforms for children affected by AIDS, who would otherwise be unable to attend school.

Yet the response from the community far exceeded Opalko’s expectations and the tournament has raised $16,500 in its first two years alone.

Opalko’s passion to help others stems from his nine years of involvement with Athletes in Action, a sports ministry group that travels around the world empowering and educating people through sport.

“This experience has given me perspective on how fortunate we are and it fuels the fire to give back,” says Opalko.

He also feels privileged for the education he has received and is committed to sharing the power of knowledge with others. Opalko is working towards a master’s in education, all while teaching phys ed and coaching full time at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute.

“Life is busy, but I think of the kids in Swaziland walking miles to go to school and it gives me motivation,” he says.

Eva Wasney

Andrew Chipman

The Fashion Blogger

“I find Winnipeg weirdly inspirational,” Andrew Chipman says. “You kind of have to have that do-it-yourself attitude to get the clothes you like.”

“(We) don’t have the (big) stores like H&M,” he continues. “So you really do have to be a little bit more creative with either making things yourself, or going out to thrift stores and trying to recreate things with a different edge.”

The 21-year-old has been showcasing his DIY fashion sense and commenting on fashion trends on his blog,, since 2008.

While the blog originally started as a way for him to comment on anything he felt like, it has since become focused on fashion, something Chipman says he’s always been interested in.

Chipman’s blog receives between 500 and 1,000 unique visitors a day and has earned him profiles on H&M’s website,, Sandbox and on men’s magazine website, where he was dubbed one of “the coolest people in style” this past October in the website’s Ultimate Style Guide.

Chipman was also a finalist in the H&M-sponsored 2011 MuchMusic Video Music Awards fashion blogger contest, and he blogs about do-it-yourself projects each Tuesday on the beauty, fashion and lifestyle section of

Currently working as a receptionist at a hair salon, Chipman says that whatever he does in the future, it will somehow involve fashion.

When asked what his number one piece of fashion advice is, Chipman responds that being comfortable is key.

“When people try to wear things because they think they should and they’re not really into it, I think it really shows,” he says.

“It’s all about your attitude. If it makes you happy, I think it’s worth it.”

Aaron Epp

Sara Robinson and Becky Nordquist

The Philanthro-pups

It’s been close to a year since Sara Robinson and Becky Nordquist started Manitoba Mutts, a non-profit rescue for abandoned and neglected dogs.

The two began their work in January 2011 after volunteering at a city animal shelter and seeing the need for more services. In that time, Manitoba Mutts has grown to 100 volunteer foster homes and has adopted out some 250 dogs, many of them from northern Manitoba.

“We wanted to get bigger and save more dogs and more kinds,” says Nordquist, 32. “A lot of the places get full and won’t accept dogs.”

But it hasn’t been easy, both financially and emotionally. The organization has fostered dogs that were starved and beaten, about to be killed by kids with a table saw, and discarded near fires in a sealed box.

“We’ve taken in some dogs from some pretty rough conditions,” says Robinson, 27. “It’s definitely a motivator.”

Currently, the organization relies on its fundraising efforts, from socials to craft and bake sales. But the two hope being a recognized charity will boost donations and attract more volunteers.

The end result is an intake facility to process more dogs, and still foster the animals until they are adopted.

“They are always living right in someone’s home, picking up family skills that are important once they’re adopted,” Robinson says.

“I don’t think we’ve sat down and set a limit as to how far we want to go,” Nordquist adds.

“It’s being going uphill for a year now. Every day gets better, each time we save another dog.

“I can’t say there’s been one day better than the rest.”

Matt Preprost

Michael Champagne

The North End Activist

If you’re looking for Michael Champagne at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, you’ll find him at the bell tower at 470 Selkirk Ave.

For the third Friday in a row, the 24-year-old is gathering there with other concerned North End residents for a rally to promote hope and remember those who have died because of violence in the community.

“We’ve just been touched by a lot of violence—it’s been hitting really close to home,” Champagne says. “We said we had to do something, and we wanted it to be a youth-led response to the violence (and) we wanted to make it loud.”

The founder of the Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO) group, Champagne has been helping give young people their voice for the past few years. He is a youth coordinator at United Way partner Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad in the North End, and he says he’s driven to make a difference because he knows the challenges his peers are experiencing.

“I grew up in the North End, I’m from the child welfare system, I’m an Aboriginal male, and being all those things, I look around at my peers and see how many challenges we’re facing right now,” he says. “That’s what motivates me.”

AYO is in the process of forming the North End Rising Youth Council, a group that will gather together young leaders from the North End for monthly meetings so that they can discuss the challenges the community is facing.

“I don’t think the young, positive leaders in our community understand how many of us there really are,” Champagne says. “With North End Rising, they will really see.”

Aaron Epp

Nils Vik

The Designer

Be it photography, music, industrial design or the highly acclaimed Parlour Coffee, everything Nils Vik touches is characterized by painstaking organization and consideration.

“There is too much half-ass in the world,” the 28-year-old says. “If you’re going to do something, you might as well think it through as much as you can.”

Until the fall of 2008, Vik didn’t enjoy coffee. During a trip to Montreal with his architecture class, Vik’s professor forced him to try espresso.

It changed his life.

“I was excited to come back to Winnipeg and get into espresso, but there was no authenticity and character here,” he says.

So this past October, Vik opened Parlour Coffee at 468 Main St.

“If you don’t like something about Winnipeg, do something about it,” he says. “I decided Winnipeg needed some form of good coffee store, so I thought I would try it.”

Vik’s experience as an industrial designer plays a large role in much of his work.

“In terms of sourcing retail products, the design of the shop, the furniture and the branding of the venue, this shop is one big design project for me,” he says. “Even when I was playing music (with instrumental acoustic guitar trio Wide Awake City), I really enjoyed designing the websites, record covers and tour posters.”

On Nov. 17, Vik announced via Parlour’s Facebook page that starting in June 2012, the café would charge a 25-cent premium on drinks ordered by the city councillors who recently voted in favour of the transit fare increase.

“It’s risky when a business stands up politically, but at the same time, it’s boring when they don’t,” Vik says.

Chris Hunter

Stu Anderson

The Inside Man

If you are an artist looking for your big break into the coveted American market, Stu Anderson is the only person you need to know.

Anderson, a talent and booking agent with Paquin Entertainment, got his start a few years ago while attending the University of Manitoba. He knew he wanted to be a part of the entertainment industry and worked to book acts for university events.

Now barely 27, Anderson is always looking for new acts with lots of energy.

“I’m always on the lookout for new bands and bands with a spark and some momentum that the agency can help take to the next level,” Anderson says.

His excitement about his job is palpable. In an industry firmly populated by the 35-and-older crowd, Anderson embodies a youthful energy and sincerity.

Most recently, Anderson has been working with local roots acts Del Barber and Oh My Darling, creating opportunities for the Winnipeg musicians to reach a new audience.

Because his job regularly takes him on the road to meet with strangers, Anderson took the unique step of a self-promotional video this summer. Branding himself as a “futuristic Agent 2.0,” Anderson makes a good impression and shows his sense of humour about what he does.

“A while ago I ran into the mom of an ex-girlfriend who told me to get a life after I tried explaining what I’m up to,” Anderson says. “Hopefully I never have to grow up and get a real job.”

Aaron Snider

Michelle Elrick

The Poet/Novelist

Of late, writer Michelle Elrick, 28, is most proud of the novel she recently completed.

“In working on a project this large, at times I’ve felt like I’d never be finished,” she says of the novel, which took six years to complete.

This novel is her first foray into the genre, but Elrick has been publishing poetry for years. Her first poetry manuscript, To Speak, won the 2009 Show Me the Book contest sponsored by CV2 (the poetry journal that Elrick graced the cover of earlier this year).

The book was published in 2010 on The Muses’ Company imprint. Elrick has also had poetry published in several literary journals, including The Fiddlehead and Canadian Literature.

In spring 2012, Elrick will be launching a poetry/performance project with the help of a Winnipeg Arts Council grant.

Thanks to her experience with poetry, Elrick brings a unique voice to the novel.

“I’m interested in playing with genre and form,” she explains. “Strictly speaking, the novel is fiction, but it’s written in a distinctly poetic style.”

In addition to her writing activity, Elrick also co-ordinates In Dialogue: The Manitoba Writers’ Guild Reading Series, which brings writers from across Canada to Winnipeg.

“I’m really proud to be a part of that series,” she says. “It’s great to be involved in the local literary scene, as well as the national.”

Elrick is also the poetry editor of Geez magazine.

For all of her achievements, Elrick won the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer in 2011, an honour she has clearly earned.

Trevor Graumann

Matthew TenBruggencate and Mel Marginet

The Dramatic Ones

One great aspect about being a theatre graduate is the ability to create your own job and work outside the box. This is exactly what University of Winnipeg honours performance grads Mel Marginet, 28, and Matthew TenBruggencate, 29, have done as the co-artistic heads and founding members of Theatre by the River, an independent company that incorporated in 2005.

“We were all friends in school and we were joined by the fact that we just didn’t want to be only actors after school,” Marginet says. “We all really wanted to produce and had plays that we wanted to write and wanted to see done.”

This year marked the company’s fifth season, and so far it has been a strong one.

TBTR’s mandate as stated on its website is to “perform theatrical work throughout Manitoba that attracts and excites both traditional and non-traditional audiences by being artistically provocative, socially significant and financially accessible.”

The group has fulfilled its mandate with inexpensive tickets, non-traditional performance spaces and presenting pieces such as the recent Generous, which commented on the impending provincial election.

The company’s first original piece was a finalist for the Harry Rintoul Award for best new Manitoban play, and they have been called “one of Winnipeg’s most ambitious independent companies”.

“We’ve been really fortunate to (have been) critically well received in Winnipeg,” Marginet says. “People understand that we are really passionate about it. We really love what we do.”

Kaeleigh Ayre

Winnipeg Arcades Project

The City Archivists

The brainchild of Owen Toews, 25, Noni Brynjolson, 25, Patrick Dunford, 29, and Ryan Trudeau, 25, the Winnipeg Arcades Project was born in the summer of 2009 and picks up where L’Atelier national du Manitoba left off.

Starting as a zine that collected articles about Winnipeg from the CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press, it has since evolved into the group’s most recent exhibition, WAP No.2/2011, which featured “borrowed” images of museums and items such as Tyndall stone from the Human Rights Museum’s construction site.

“A lot of what we’ve done has been about museums and modes of museum display,” Winnipeg expat Brynjolson says via Skype from Montreal, where she now lives. “A lot of what we’ve done so far is to look at these really big places that really symbolize power and maybe we need to focus more on things that are overlooked in the city.”

“Winnipeg is about race and colonialism and I feel that a lot of the myth-making (such as Guy Maddin’s film My Winnipeg) doesn’t necessarily engage with those subjects,” Toews says.

“We had collected all these funny artifacts from building sites which are basically just pieces of garbage,” Brynjolson says. “But when you put them on a clean, white table cloth in a museum, they really do look like artifacts.”

The end goal for WAP is to have a permanent museum of its DIY exhibitions, though there are no real plans set in motion to make it a reality.

“It’s a life project,” Brynjolson says. “We’re going to be on the next top 50 under 50 list.”

Nicholas Friesen

Kevin Bacon

The Filmmaker

“I wanted to adapt movies ever since I was young,” explains 27-year-old filmmaker Kevin Bacon. “I do it for fun whether or not I make it anywhere - it doesn’t matter.”

A recent graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s film and theatre program, Kevin is having great success in the industry.

From travelling to New York with Saskatoon’s The Sheepdogs and documenting their journey to the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, to doing sound work for TSN and Sportsnet, it’s all enabled Bacon to practice his art.

“I didn’t want to wake up at 40 and not have pursued my passion in filmmaking.”

His first feature film is the thriller The Stork, which he was able to produce after receiving a production grant for the making of his short film, Magic Hour.

Bacon has won a handful of awards at previous local horror film festivals and he’s also the main organizer of this past October’s second annual Winnipeg Horror Cinema, a festival dedicated to showcasing local talent.

As a member of the Winnipeg Film Group, he is the go-to guy in the sound department, where he teaches the odd workshop.

In addition, Bacon also has lots of material waiting in the wings.

“I have lots of projects that I want to adapt that I wrote as a teenager. A lot of them are really creative and I want to put them to film,” he says. “I just want to create.”

John Van Laar

Hot Thespian Action

The Funny Guys and Gals

With a strong fan base, Hot Thespian Action has come a long way from three girls in an Advanced Mime and Improv course at the University of Winnipeg.

Original members Shannon Guile, 28, Jacqueline Loewen, 29, and Jane Testar, 28, were joined by fellow U of

W theatre students Garth Merkeley, 28, and Ryan Miller, 28, and the group quickly became a Fringe hit with their 2006 show Hands On.

Every year since, HTA has performed to packed houses and critical acclaim with five-star shows at the Fringe Festival, and it has only gone up from there.

“This last year was really a good year for us,” says Merkeley.

In April, they performed at the CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival, an event the group has attended annually since 2009. This year, in addition to having its own show, the troupe was also a part of the televised gala.

This year also saw HTA’s nomination for a Canadian Comedy Award for Best Sketch Troupe.

“That was a huge honour for them to even consider us,” Merkeley says. “We’re not from Toronto and not many people have heard of us on a national scale.”

While HTA is still planning on doing the stage thing, they have their eyes set on other audiences.

“Our goal right now is to get the pilot produced and, if everything goes according to plan, eventually we would have a TV show on the air. Beyond that, we also want to travel with our stuff and get more people to know us.”

Kaeleigh Ayre

Photos contributed by: Brit McLeod; Kaitlyn Emslie Farrell; Dylan Hewlett; Matthew Sawatzky; Stephen Kurz; Matthew Sawatzky; Duncan McNairnay (Supplied)

Published in Volume 66, Number 14 of The Uniter (November 30, 2011)

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