By Larysa Musick
Art-lovers like me are enjoying the improving aesthetic of Winnipeg. Eighteen public art installations by various artists have been built in the past few years. Multiple commissioned murals, organized by Synonym Art Consultation’s Wall-to-Wall series, have been enlivening the downtrodden corners of the North End. Opportunities for artists to find paid work is ever-increasing, such as the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, Winnipeg International Writers Festival, Nuit Blanche, Interstellar Rodeo, Third+Bird, The Exchange Alleyways Market, and Sherbrook Street Festival.
Winnipeg, the unassuming prairie city with a small-town feel, the central Canadian sinkhole we retire in to take over walk-in clinics and hospitals with our withering elderly health, has been shifting steadily into an artist’s hub. The divide between art business opportunities in the Peg and big cities like Toronto and Vancouver is getting smaller. Look out Christopher Robin, this city named after Winnie The Pooh has a rumbly in its tummy, and tourists are starting to notice.
You can’t argue with the numbers. Studies done by Downtown Winnipeg Market Research shows four million people visit the Forks each year. If you went to the Canada Games Festival as I did, struggling to manoeuvre through crowds of people, you’d get the picture. Last November Vogue called Winnipeg “peak Canadiana”—a far cry from the central Canadian sinkhole. Restaurants in the city are gaining traction—Enoteca and Clementine’s Café were on enRoute’s top 10 restaurants list last month.
If you’d asked me four years ago, I’d tell you Winnipeg is the place where musicians practice until they’re ready to move to Toronto or Vancouver. Now I know better, seeing the increasing numbers at Manitoba music festivals where performers can create a lasting fan-base—Rainbow Trout, Harvest Moon, Harvest Sun, Folk Fest, and Shine On.
The next time a Winnipeg local rags on our city, you can bet on me scoffing in their direction. Little do they realize; they’ve got their feet on a place that’s waking up from a deep prairie slumber.