Reading Week & Festival du Voyageur

I’ve been slacking on the blogging. Reading Week crept up slowly, then came to an abrupt end. This was also the first spring break I’ve had in four years of post-secondary education where I remained stressed out.

I can’t say I did anything too productive, nor did I “go out” often. I binge-read some of the books I accumulated throughout the semester. I also spent an embarrassing amount of time watching conspiracy theory documentaries. And, like any depressed person with no stability for seven days, I slept a lot and completed only a marginal amount of work.

Even though I didn’t go out that often, I did check out Festival du Voyageur for the first time in over a decade. I’m quite sure I was only 8 years old the last time I went. It was with school, and I remember my parents giving me spending money. I came home with one of those cliche multi-coloured scarves and a handmade leather pouch (which, oddly enough, I still have in my trunk of random stuff I simply must hold onto).

In case you didn’t already know, Winnipeg has an awesome music scene. Festival hosted two great local bands on the night of Feb. 24: Living Hour and Sc Mira.

It was my first time seeing Living Hour, but after only a few songs I already knew they’d be a new local favourite. The lead singer’s dreamy chops brought back memories of seeing Feist at Winnipeg Folk Fest back in 2012 (she even has the same effortlessly cool blunt bangs). Sc Mira has toured Tokyo, North America, and been on numerous festival stages. Their lead singer, Sadye Cage, gives out some major Grimes vibes and is always unpredictable on stage (during their set, she even busted out a tube of fake blood and smeared it up her arm). If you’ve never listened to them, I highly recommend checking out their EP, “Waiting Room Baby.”

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Speaking Crow & Poetry

This past Tuesday evening, my friend and I braved a sea of Jets fans on Portage Avenue to get to the Millennium Library for “Speaking Crow,” a poetry reading series that takes place on the first Tuesday of each month from 7-9 p.m.

Speaking Crow is Winnipeg’s longest-running poetry open mic series. There is a local poet slotted as the featured reader each month. Three-minute open mic starts afterward (sign up is done prior to the featured poet’s reading).

The events are free and, since discovering the series, I have gone a few times. Naturally, the featured reader is always awesome and showcases Manitoba’s literary talent. Mostly though, I’m always blown away by the amount of amateur writers that have the guts to read their own work (which, admittedly, I don’t have).

In my opinion, there are many misconceptions surrounding poetry. I often find myself talking to people who claim they don’t like it. Perhaps this is because there’s a brief poetry is “cheesy,” always follows a more “traditional” template, and comes across as pretentious. But poetry isn’t always flowery. The writing can be simple and doesn’t have to use many literary techniques. Metaphors don’t need to be overused and themes can often be straightforward so the message is clear.

Speaking Crow presents such a wide range of voices and styles I can almost guarantee everyone would enjoy attending. I recommend it to already existing poetry lovers or those just wanting to explore the genre a bit more.

Cool Things!

There are always exciting things happening in Winnipeg, you just need to know where to find them. For this week’s blog post, I decided to compile a short list of some low-cost or free events happening in the next few days:

1. Forthwith Festival – Forth is a coffee shop located on McDermot Avenue. With food, coffee, tea, alcoholic beverages, and a nice relaxing atmosphere, it’s a student’s study paradise. However, Forth also hosts many other cool events I encourage you to check out. Forthwith Festival, held from February 10-12, claims on their Facebook page to “showcase a blend of local and international artists and blur the lines between music, creativity and tech.” The event’s schedule can be found here.

2. If you’re obsessed with all forms of literature like I am, Prairie Fire magazine is launching their winter issue for Turnstone Press’s 40th birthday where local writers will be reading their work. Sidenote: there will also be cake. More info can be found here.

3. “Unravelling the braids of Colonialism, Gender and the Body” is taking place at The University of Winnipeg (Gallery 1C03, to be exact) on February 9. It will be a panel discussion featuring Julie Nagam, The Ephemerals, Danishka Esterhazy, and Freya Björg Olafson. According to their Facebook event page, “Each artist/filmmaker proposes a critical investigation of the ways in which the body both performs and records experiences of gender, voice, and stereotypes. Here, we will explore how performativity can reveal and mobilize particular histories of colonialism, violence against women and their ongoing impacts on peoples in Canada and the larger global community.”

4. Poetry! Do I need to say more? On February 11, QTPOC Drop the Mic #5 will be taking place at The Good Will Social Club on Portage Avenue. Part of Genderfest, the poetry series aims to showcase and celebrate queer and trans artists/writers/performers of colour. You can find more information here.

Women’s March on Washington – Winnipeg

Last weekend, I covered the Women’s March on Washington – Winnipeg for my school paper. I took some awesome photos and chatted with some cool people, so I figured I’d make this week’s blog a photo essay of sorts with a short article.

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Approximately 3000 people took to Portage Avenue in an act of solidarity with the United States on the morning of January 21, 2017.

Scheduled for the day after Trump took office, Winnipeg was one of 25 Canadian cities to participate in the Women’s March on Washington. Worldwide, there were approximately 600 gatherings.

Winnipeg’s march began at Portage Place and, after demonstrations, speakers, and a smudging, poured onto the streets of downtown.

Laura Hastings was one of the estimated 3000 Winnipeggers to attend. While the march originated as a response to the racism, sexism and homophobia spewed by Donald Trump on his campaign trail, Hastings believes there is still a lot of work to do in Canada.

“We are marching for Canadian women of all walks of life,” she said. “Just look at all the things in Canada that are still legal to do to people, like conversion therapy. It was still legal in Ontario and paid for by the government until 2015.”

Bethany Granholm is a single mother who attended the march with her daughters in hopes of setting an example.

“I’m heartbroken the patriarchy, bigotry and sexism has been given a loud speaker instead of being crushed,” Granholm said. “I hope my girls will see it is possible to be successful, single and female.”

The Women’s March on Washington, of course, is only the beginning. In response to Trump’s recent executive measures (such as anti-abortion funding, the temporary immigrant/migrant ban, approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline and that #FuckingWall), there will be another event in Winnipeg on February 3. For those interested, you can find the Facebook event page for “No Ban, No Wall” here.

Oh, and here’s a couple of photos I took at the march:

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The Uniter Fiver

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Winnipeg band Tusk at The Good Will Social Club on January 19, 2017 as part of The Uniter Fiver.

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Tusk.

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Tusk.

It was another cold Thursday night, but The Good Will Social Club on Portage Avenue was packed.

For the fourth year in a row, The Uniter (The University of Winnipeg’s newspaper) planned an awesome night of showcasing five new up and coming Winnipeg bands. This year’s included Kakagi, Tusk, June Killing Stones, Rosebud and Awaiting the Answer.

According to The Uniter’s website, the yearly event is meant to provide locals acts with a chance at coverage, recording opportunities and industry coverage. With the fans doing the voting, the acts featured receive prize packages and other perks. The winner also gets the chance to record a 3 song EP at Collector Studio.

While Kakagi won the highest vote, the other bands featured in the showcase prove just how talented Winnipeg’s music scene is. Tusk, for instance, had a particularly unique sound. According to their Facebook page, they describe themselves as a “wall of sound” with influences from alternative, grunge and progressive rock.

Tyler Hesford, Tusk’s bassist, said playing in The Uniter Fiver was a “fantastic experience.”

“It gave us exposure to an audience that wouldn’t normally hear us and was a huge help in introducing us to a new venue,” he added. “It showed an optimistically vibrant side to Winnipeg’s steadily growing music scene.”

Hesford also noted Nirvana, Marcy Playground, Nine Inch Nails, the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead and Alice in Chains as some of the band’s musical influences.

Tusk will be playing a lot of shows in the spring with some special announcements in between. Their EP will also be released on March 25, 2017 at the Cavern.

As for some other great local music, Hesford recommends checking out Moon Tan, Silence Kit, The Northern Elms, Trampoline, The Secrets, June Killing Stones, Beth, Attilan, Apollo Suns, Solhounds, Inverted Serenity, Chev, SC Mira, Kieran West, Micah Erenberg and Cell.

Au-delà / Furthermore

For second semester of CreComm, my blog is changing from the challenges we were assigned last term. I will now be blogging weekly on a topic of my choice: Winnipeg’s arts and culture community. I plan to attend events (preferably low cost or free ones) and photograph, interview and report on them. This will either be weekly or, if possible, writing about a specific area over the span of a few. Topics will likely range from art exhibits, social justice movements and literary events (among many other possibilities).

I hope I inspire you to check out some of the awesome things happening in Winnipeg!

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For this week’s blog post, I decided to check out an exhibit featuring one of my favourite local artists: Benj Funk.

“Au-delà / Furthermore,” now one display at La Maison des Artistes Visuals in St. Boniface, features the works of Funk, Bev Pike, Diana Thorneycroft, Susan Aydan Abbott and Evin Collis.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia and a recovered addict, Funk’s multimedia work has sparked a conversation about mental illness that often gets ignored or stigmatized.

In 2015, her exhibit, “Lossy (Spectres of Schizophrenia),” was also featured at La Maison des Artistes. The exhibit offered a glimpse into Funk’s first-hand experiences with mental illness, and walked viewers through some of the more prominent events of Funk’s life –such as auditory hallucinations, hospitalizations, drug abuse, medication and self-harm – through unexpected angles.

I have been intrigued by Funk’s work since I saw “Lossy” back in 2015. Aside from lots of her work being derived from experiences with mental illness, Funk is also a transgender artist. In my opinion, art (of all kinds) is always most fascinating when it brings somewhat of an “outsider’s” perspective. Funk’s work offers insight into experiences that may be alien to many or, on the other hand, quite familiar.

If you’d like to check out “Au-delà / Furthermore,” it’s on display at La Maison des Artistes Visuals (219 Provencher Boulevard) from now until January 28.

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Resolutions

I’m not one to make strict New Years resolutions, but here are a few aspirations I hope to carry with me into 2017:

1. Stay soft – I’ve been trying not to let the world turn me hard, but 2016 really tested my ability to remain strong and at emotional peace. It’s ok for things not to work out and it’s ok for things to fall apart. Stay giving, embrace your emotions (good or bad), and feel everything deeply. After all, being tender is courageous and sensitivity does not negate capability

2. Be unapologetically honest – I’m a writer, and most of my inspiration comes from my own personal experiences. Sometimes, however, self-doubt and fear creep its way into my work. In 2017, I want to learn to speak the truth even if my voice shakes. I want to write from the heart, no matter the consequences, and do so with pride and kindness. I want to keep doing what I am most afraid of. Vulnerability is a virtue.

3. Cry more, if needed – There is no “right” reaction to hurt. Remember, friends, emotions are not a sign of weakness. In fact, they show you are real, brave and resilient. The world can be exhausting but we’re all capable of shining.

4. Write more, read more, and set aside time to do what makes me happy – Life is busy, but sometimes it’s necessary to break away from the daily grind to pursue your own creative endeavours. Practicing self-care, exploring passions and feeding your imagination are just as important as any other obligations you may have. Use these instances to grab onto small moments of joy.

5. Stop comparing myself to others – Accomplishments are not linear, neither is time. Always remind yourself you work hard and are growing (even when it may feel you aren’t). Celebrate the victories of those around you instead of questioning your own progress.