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Culture, not oil, is our economic future

- by Roberta Christianson

Members of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet perform Dracula at the Centennial Concert Hall.

Published in the Winnipeg Free Press on October 29, 2016, re-published with permission of the author.

Chris Lorenc asked what might have happened had Brian Epstein never met the Beatles (Landlocked pipelines wasting our potential, Oct. 15).

"Hard to imagine squandering such natural gifts," he said. Lorenc then goes on to suggest the Beatles are not so different from Canada’s "landlocked oil resources," which we are squandering by not having pipelines to tidewater.

I would beg to differ on the contention pipelines are the solution to Canada’s economic future. Instead, I think we need to focus on the natural gifts of Canada’s musicians, artists, filmmakers and other creative-sector talents.

Mirroring national and international trends, Manitoba’s arts and creative sector is the fastest-growing sector in the province. Recently published reports based on Statistics Canada survey data show the arts and creative sector in Manitoba produces a GDP impact of $1.7 billion annually and employs more than 22,000 people. With an annual GDP growth of 23 per cent since 2010, it is outpacing the provincial economy and all other sectors.

These numbers show arts and the creative industries are one of Manitoba’s key economic drivers — out-producing traditional industries such as electric power generation, oil and gas extraction, engineering construction, accommodation and food service, truck transport, food manufacturing and the combined impact of mining, forestry, fishing, hunting and trapping. Looking at these numbers, perhaps it is time to re-frame what we consider to be our "natural resources."

The arts are so much more than numbers. The arts reflect our stories. They inspire us and make us question and explore the world around us. They embolden us to dare, to risk and to succeed. It is what 70 per cent of tourists are drawn here to see. Nearly every Manitoban participates in some form of art or culture — in fact, our arts and cultural attractions bring more paying customers than our professional sports teams.

It seems at odds, then, that our elected officials have neglected the arts and creative industries for decades. It is only recently that Mayor Brian Bowman has implemented modest increases to the Winnipeg Arts Council — but even that is only bringing us close to $7 per capita, when the national large-city average is around $30 per capita.

The provincial government has not increased its contribution to the sector in decades and has only very recently begun to examine the policies behind its investment.

The last cultural policy review in Manitoba was in 1990 — and that was before the Internet existed. The impact on creative producers has been profound, yet our investment policies haven’t changed. Much is riding on the new Conservative government’s pledge to review cultural policy and investment in the arts and creative industries. We need to strengthen the financial capacity and sustainability of cultural organizations with increased and significant investment in the cultural sector.

Both the civic and provincial governments also need to address the infrastructure deficit affecting existing spaces and facilities.

Across the province, culture is housed and created in public buildings, historical homes, museums, libraries and other community hubs. Past investments and our architectural history risk being lost without a commitment to maintain and enhance our cultural infrastructure. Facilities in all of our communities need to be maintained, updated and renewed.

Ideas may not require bricks and mortar to take shape, but transforming creative ideas into physical form often requires external facilities. While Manitoba has numerous creative spaces, the demand is greater than the supply.

Creativity and innovation are words that are heard all the time, important words that are key to our collective futures. So are community, prosperity and health. The arts are at the forefront of these critical issues, just as they also happen to be at the forefront of our economic and job growth. Let’s not squander any of our precious resources. If art and culture could be considered our new metaphorical oil, then we need to invest in the equivalent refineries and pipelines.

Roberta Christianson is the chairwoman of the Manitobans for the Arts.

See the Winnipeg Free Press article


We don’t always know what we don’t know

- by Guest post-Meg Crane

Guest post by Meg Crane I

It’s difficult to sit on a good idea, especially when there’s no off-switch for the creative mind. With artistic visions constantly swirling around, it can be tempting to grab onto one and turn it into reality. Sometimes this can mean projects that wouldn’t come into fruition if they were overthought are successfully executed. Other times, it means diving into something without any of the required skills and winding up overwhelmed.

This is basically my style. I was about to do this once again a few months ago by launching my second Kickstarter campaign—for 10 times the amount of the first one—without any real research into creating a successful project. Thankfully ACI Manitoba's Mu-Zine hit my inbox and stopped me with a little blurb about Hope Nicholson’s upcoming workshop, Kickstart Your Art! A Crowdfunding Primer.

In ACI Manitoba's the Art of Managing Your Career, instructor Heather Bishop has her students write down the skills they think they need to further their work. The problem is, as she’ll say, sometimes it’s hard to identify what we don’t know, until we either know it or fall flat on our faces.

Even for people who are more than happy to learn from their mistakes, the path to success is much easier for those who equip themselves with the right tools before they’re needed. If failure comes after making an effort to learn from others’ experiences, the firsthand lessons will be richer. What is learned won’t be the small mistakes which are obvious to a professional, but rather the more personal details that need to be tweaked.

If I had not taken Nicholson’s workshop, I’d be disappointed that my Kickstarter didn’t go well and feel like a failure. However, the numbers, facts and reassurance she gave during the workshop are helping me now to understand that it’s not that I suck. It’s just that my expectations weren’t realistic or it wasn’t the right time. I also didn’t follow all her recommendations (such as keep the video short and concise) because I’d jumped the gun and gotten started on part of the campaign before even entering the classroom. And I thought I didn’t need to learn anything about running a Kickstarter!

Take a look at your own practice. What skills have you officially been taught and which have you learned on your own? It’s possible to be a self-taught genius, but there’s still a good chance a quick workshop or consultation with an expert will either reinforce your perception that everything is under control or send you off with a few new tricks.

Workshops at ACI Manitoba don’t only build skill, they also serve as great networking venues. Plus, the low cost is helping to support other local artists. It’s kind of win-win.


The MCO Announces Its Twenties Consecutive Year of Balanced Budgets

- by Kaitlin Aiello

The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra has completed its twentieth year in a row of balanced budgets, completing their 2015-16 season with a modest surplus of $15,798. This and other good news was presented at the AGM on October 19th.

Concerts and attendance

Attendance figures for its nine concert evening series at Westminster United Church grew sizeably over the past season, increasing from about 5000 to nearly 6500 attendees. Subscription revenues reached an all-time high. The 2015/16 series brought back many distinguished musicians and introduced some up-and-comers. Marc-André Hamelin opened the season with an electrifying performance of repertoire by Giya Kancheli; an online video from the concert has reached thousands across the world. Cellist Colin Carr, a long-time Winnipeg favourite, gave a stellar performance and the MCO’s charming Christmas concert with the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir and the Pembina Trails Voices Singers helped them to engage new audiences. Young musicians Emmanuel Ceysson and Lucie Horsch performed brilliantly on rarely programmed solo instruments (harp and recorder respectively). James Ehnes delivered his expected pyrotechnics in a thrilling spring concert that sold out, and the august Janina Fialkowska and captivating Isabel Bayrakdarian rounded out the MCO’s list of veteran guest artists. The MCO also added two matinee performances in April and May and revived their popular Beatles FAB fundraiser concert.

Outreach and education

The MCO performed for over 7,600 people through its outreach programs. Over a two-week period in June, the MCO ‘Fiddlers on the Loose’ travelled northern Manitoba by van and train to deliver music programming, workshops, and performances. They engaged youth and communities in Grand Rapids, Thompson, Churchill, Snow Lake, Flin Flon and Cormorant Lake. Earlier in the year, the Fiddlers performed for 75 people at Stony Mountain Penitentiary while ‘Fiddlers on the Loose in the Library’ reached another 308 people.


Overall, fundraising efforts were strong. Heartstrings earned $40,000, while its sold-out Candlelight Evening fundraiser with Colin Carr in recital, added another $5,500. 2015/16 was a unique year for the Vinyl Vault, which, thanks to renewed marketing efforts and the work of a dedicated group of volunteers, was able to quadruple its earnings from the previous season, raising over $17,000. MCO’s Endowment Fund, administered by be Winnipeg Foundation, received donations from supporters and matching funds from be Winnipeg Foundation and the federal Endowment Incentives Program. It now sits at over $1.8 million.

MCO Board of Directors

The MCO Board of Directors expressed satisfaction with the year’s results, and has turned its focus to the promise of the current season, which so far has included an eastern Canadian tour and recording with percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie. The MCO also wishes to welcome three new board members beginning in the 2016/17 season: Coralie Bryant, David Christianson, and Amanda Evenson.

For more information please visit the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra at


Tables Turned

- by Dana Letkeman/Arlea Ashcroft

ACI Manitoba is the Arts and Cultural Industries Association of Manitoba. We are a not for profit organization dedicated to supporting the arts and cultural industries of Manitoba. At past AGMs, we invited ACI members to showcase their work as photographers, but this year we turned the tables on ourselves and presented a group exhibition featuring the photographic work of our staff. Our venue at 245 McDermot is part of the 3rd annual Flash Photographic Festival.

You know us as arts admin, support, and service workers to the arts and cultural industry. But the reason we do what we do is because we are also artists. We know the struggle is real. We know the need to create. We know the love of art. It makes us better mentors, trainers, teachers and organizers because we know what it takes to be an artist.

TABLES TURNED is our first exhibition as a group.

We are exploring how photography shapes our ideas and informs how we perceive ourselves, the world around us and our connection to the Manitoba art scene. It is the view from us, giving insight into who we are, and why we do what we do for our artistic community. Works in the exhibition range from landscape to figurative, portraiture to abstract and hands on manipulation. With each one of us an individual expressing the idea of who we are, our passions and our drive to create.

We hope to inspire you with our work as you constantly inspire us. Art is a give and take of ideas, emotions, and thought. And our goal with this show is to share that fluid bond between us from artist to artist.

Participating artists are:
Thom Sparling, Carol Finlay, Kate Vermette, Kaitlin Aiello, Arlea Ashcroft, Alicia Faucher, Jamie Lou Morneau, Jan Skene, Christie Fischer, and Kathe Meseman.

We will be displaying the photographs until the end of October so be sure to stop by at 245 McDermot and check them out!

FLASH is Winnipeg's Annual Photographic Festival. Each October the city sees photographs on walls in cafes, shops and galleries; giving a venue for established and emerging artists. Founded in 2014, The Flash Photographic Festival educates, demonstrates, and illuminates.


Audiences and Critics Praised Constellations!

- by Kaitlin Aiello

“What resounds is its bittersweet exploration of how two people navigate the strange and sometimes cruel turns of fate, and of roads not taken … It's fascinating as a piece of writing, if tremendously challenging — and by and large, director Sarah Constible's production pulls this off admirably” - Joff Schmit, CBC

“As a piece of theatre, English playwright Nick Payne’s Constellations is an exemple of how to execute complex dramatic ideas with elegant simplicity.” - Randall King, Winnipeg Free Press

Audiences and critics were delighted by Theatre by the River's Constellations. Read Joff Schmit’s full CBC review here, and check out Randall King’s interview with Derek and Mel from the Winnipeg Free Press.


Katherena Vermette makes Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize shortlist!

- by Kaitlin Aiello

Anosh Irani, Katherena Vermette make Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize shortlist!
By: CBC books – September 21, 2016

Four novels and a short story collection have been named to the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize shortlist. The Canadian fiction prize comes with a cash award of $25,000.

Toronto author Michael Helm makes his third appearance on the prize shortlist for his book After James. Helm was nominated in 2004 for In the Place of Last Things and in 2010 for Cities of Refuge. After James is a story told in three parts, following a neuroscientist, poet and virologist, each charged with solving a mystery.

Vancouver writer and award-winning playwright Anosh Irani is on the shortlist for his novel The Parcel, which chronicles the life of a transgender sex worker in India. Irani's previous novels have made shortlists for the Man Asian Literary Prize, CBC's Canada Reads and the Governor General's Literary Award.

Winnipeg poet Katherena Vermette is a finalist for her debut novel The Break. The book unfolds in the aftermath of a vicious attack on a young Indigenous girl and follows the efforts of her family members to pull the pieces of accountability together. In 2012, Vermette won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry for her first book, North End Love Songs.

Moncton-based writer Kerry Lee Powell is nominated for her first short story collection, Willem de Kooning's Paintbrush, which is currently also on the longlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Written with dark humour and stunning prose, some of the book's stories have individually won prizes like the Boston Review short story contest and Malahat Review's Far Horizons Award for short fiction.

To read more on the article and listen to an interview with Katherena Vermette on her novel The Break, please visit CBC books


The Art of Diversity

- by Kaitlin Aiello

Winnipeg's vibrant art scene benefits from its multiculturalism

By: Tobi Nifesi, The Manitoban – September 20, 2016

Graphic by Kelly Campbell.

Winnipeg, the geographical heart of Canada, has become a melting pot for people of diverse cultures and backgrounds. Like many Canadian cities, the capital of Manitoba has welcomed many immigrants to its region over the past decade. In that time, Manitoba and other western provinces have had a 62 per cent increase in immigrant population.

The city, which is home to 718,000 people, is rich in tradition, culture, arts, and entertainment. It has the largest francophone community west of Ontario, one of the largest indigenous communities in North America, and is inclusive of several other cultures from around the word.

A lot of the city’s virtues and strengths stem from its multiculturalism and history. The once-upon-a-time fur trade capital of Canada played a big role as Canada’s gateway to the west and years later it became the financial capital of western Canada thanks to its immigrant influx and agricultural commercialization.

Winnipeg’s progressive and hospitable culture has paved the way for growth in many sectors, especially in arts and culture. Its diverse cultural expressions and background have helped shape its pool of creative and artistic talent.

Thom Sparling, the executive director of the Arts and Cultural Industries Association of Manitoba (ACI Manitoba) and a University of Manitoba alumnus, has worked in Manitoba’s arts and cultural industries for over 25 years. He has worked with several local artists and has seen the city’s arts scene grow to become what it is today.

“One of the strengths of Winnipeg’s arts community is the diversity,” Sparling told the Manitoban.

“Winnipeg has really exploded to become a more culturally diverse community in the last five or 10 years. Manitoba’s arts and culture used to be dominated by English and francophone communities and, to a certain extent, the indigenous artists.”

“But now, it is really remarkable to think the number of artists who have come to Winnipeg from all around the world – you can think of the South, Central Americans, French, Filipinos, and more.

All of those ethnically diverse communities are really beginning to add to and change the dynamics of our arts communities.”

Today, Peg City (as Winnipeg is fondly referred to by Winnipeggers) is home to a number of internationally renowned arts and heritage institutions like the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and Le Cercle Moliere – Canada’s oldest francophone theatre.

The impact of Winnipeg’s cultural influx has caused several local arts and cultural institutions and groups to develop programs and initiatives that are more inclusive of artists from different backgrounds. One such program is the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s recently-announced Art Express’d project, which is part of the Canadian government’s Signature Initiatives to celebrate Canada turning 150 next year.

The Art Express’d project celebrates Canada’s upcoming anniversary by highlighting its unique cultural diversity. The $300,000 initiative involves sending three mobile art studios across Canada.

“This project looks at the subject of diversity and how Canada is representative of different communities,” Seema Hollenberg, the head of curatorial at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, told the Manitoban.

Hollenberg believes that Winnipeg’s artistic culture and progress are testament to its inclusiveness and diversity as the city’s arts community has grown to include renowned painters, sculptors, authors, musicians, and artists with different cultural experiences and expressions.

“It is the job of art galleries and institutions to represent the arts community. The arts community is a unilineal community and represents diverse experiences. Art is a universal language – you don’t need to speak the same language as the artist to understand or appreciate a great artwork.”

“Even if it is very abstract or culturally bound, you can always find something to learn from an artwork. Art definitely contributes to making this world a global village.”

In many ways, Winnipeg’s cultural spaces, like the Forks – Winnipeg’s number one tourist destination visited by over four million people per year – have benefitted from the city’s artistic history and culture. This history and culture are rooted in diversity and Winnipeggers continue to imbibe this notion and values as the city grows to be even more inclusive and welcoming of all races, ethnicities, and cultures.

As the city’s largest educational institution, the University of Manitoba continues to welcome students from all over the world with international students making up close to 10 per cent of its student population.

Jamie Wright, the gallery project assistant at the university’s school of art, praised the university for making good efforts in recent years to encourage diversity on campus and in the school of fine art.

“I think the school of arts is doing a great job of focusing on the artists and their works regardless of their background. The student body here has a wonderful diversity. The work done by the university and the school of arts represents a broad and diverse cultural background,” Wright told the Manitoban.

“The benefit of diversity is that it provides different ways to look at a problem, explain things, and improve creative processes.”

To a large extent, Winnipeg’s arts community has benefited and continues to benefit from its diverse culture. The city’s vibrant and growing arts and entertainment will only get better as Winnipeggers become more inclusive and welcoming of all cultures.


The Question About Content with David Pensato

- by Kaitlin Aiello

There is an enormous amount of online resources about “content marketing”, and the information can become, at times, overwhelming and needlessly complicated. While it seems to primarily focus on web and social media use, these aren’t always the best tools to use. In some cases, offline content marketing can be more effective.

In this tutorial, we’ll look at the basics of solid content marketing, how to evaluate which tools and platforms make sense for your purposes, and how to develop a content strategy that you can realistically implement and evaluate.

Instructor: David Pensato

David Pensato has worked as a communications professional for nearly a decade. In that time, he has established himself as a hard-working, client-focused and innovative thinker in a broad range of public and private sectors. Specializing in “interactive brand and strategy”, David has consistently developed innovative approaches for integrating online with offline marketing, engagement, and interaction. Prior to branching out as an independent brand strategist and marketing consultant in 2009, David served as Director of Communications for McNally Robinson Booksellers and as an Account Executive and Strategist for an award-winning boutique interactive firm.


TEAM ACI – Flash Photographic Festival runs from Oct 1-31

- by Jamie Lou Morneau

Tables Turned

ACI Manitoba is the Arts and Cultural Industries Association of Manitoba. We are a not for profit organization dedicated to supporting the arts and cultural industries of Manitoba. We’ve turned the tables on ourselves and are presenting a group exhibition featuring the photographic work of the staff of ACI Manitoba.

We are exploring how photography shapes our ideas and informs how we perceive ourselves, the world around us and our connection to the Manitoba art scene. It is the view from us, giving insight into who we are, and why we do what we do for our artistic community. Works in the exhibition will range from landscape to figurative, portraiture to abstract. With each one of us an individual expressing the idea of who we are, our passions and our drive to create.

Participating artists are:

Thom Sparling, Carol Finlay, Kate Vermette, Kaitlin Aiello, Arlea Ashcroft, Alicia Faucher, Jamie Lou Morneau, Jan Skene, Christie Fischer, and Kathe Meseman.

We will be displaying the photographs till the end of October so be sure to stop by and check them out!

FLASH is Winnipeg's Annual Photographic Festival. Each October the city sees photographs on walls in cafes, shops and galleries; giving a venue for established and emerging artists. Founded in 2014, The Flash Photographic Festival educates, demonstrates, and illuminates.


Funding Through Kickstarter

- by Jamie Lou Morneau

Check out this video with Hope Nicholson on Funding through Kickstarter. To learn more about Kickstarter and online campaigning, register for the Kickstart Your Art! workshop coming up September 21st, 2016.


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