Agitated by Art

December 9, 2019
Post contributed by ​Brent Retzlaff
Tom Hendry said that “theatre should give a city an image of its soul”. As a co-founder of the Manitoba Theatre Centre, Hendry served as the Business Manager of Canada’s first regional theatre. He was expelled from the University of Manitoba in 1947 for skipping class and in 1995 he was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada. Hendry was a rebel that worked to revolutionize the cultural industries.

Day 3 of Leadership Winnipeg focussed on our city’s arts, culture, and heritage. We heard from a panel of leaders in the cultural industry representing organizations such as: the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. We also had the opportunity to tour the Manitoba Museum, hear from a local nostalgia radio station (CJNU) and learn about the production of the movie Stand!

Just like Tom Hendry, all the artists that we heard from were agitators and conversation generators. The Inuit Art Centre at the WAG is starting a conversation around Inuit and Northern experiences. The Winnipeg Art Gallery already has 13,000 pieces of Inuit art and plans to open the doors of the new Inuit Art Centre in 2020. The RMTC is sparking conversation around LGBTQ issues with its recent run of Fun Home, an examination of childhood from the lens of adulthood. Finally, CJNU is targeting listeners that are 50+ with nostalgia radio that also helps get the word out regarding the good work of local charities.   

Art is often seen as stuffy and inaccessible. It can often be viewed as academic or difficult to comprehend. The cultural industry leaders that we heard from are attempting to change that by offering unique ways of accessing art. For example, the WSO offers programming called Night at the Movies. At these events, the audience watches a movie such as Jurassic Park, The Nightmare Before Christmas, or Harry Potter with the musical score being played by the symphony.

It is also important that children can learn about art from a young age. That’s the reason the symphony has a program called Sistema Winnipeg, a music program that changes lives. The program engages 160 children in grades 1-8 in the power of ensemble music. The WAG offers programming through The WAG Studio. The philosophy of the program is based around the belief that art education is a vital component in the personal development of individuals at any age.

Overall, Day 3 of Leadership Winnipeg gave all the participants an opportunity to think about the impact of art and the organizations that drive culture in our city. It also gave us an opportunity to reflect on the broader conversation that art is creating. I left the session with a desire to pursue experiences that make me uncomfortable (and driven to do something about it!)