What makes a place?

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This article was published 27/9/2018 (1096 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

What makes a place?

That question was at the heart of This Place on Treaty 1 Territory & the homeland of the Métis Nation, a new public-art project featuring four sculptural works by contemporary Indigenous artists — Rebecca Belmore and Osvaldo Yero, Kenneth Lavallee, Julie Nagam and Roland Souliere — commissioned by the Winnipeg Arts Council. Installed around Air Canada Park in downtown Winnipeg, these pieces will be unveiled to the public at a concert celebration from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. featuring a slate of Indigenous performers, including Leonard Sumner, the Help Wanteds, the Asham Stompers, Nikki Komaksiutiksak, and Ray (Co-co) Stevenson, Rhonda James and the Walking Wolf Singers.

Beat a path to these events

Culture Days’ theme for 2018 is #OnBeat, focusing on how rhythm and percussion are universal artistic expressions. Here are 10 #OnBeat events to check out around Manitoba.

Culture Days’ theme for 2018 is #OnBeat, focusing on how rhythm and percussion are universal artistic expressions. Here are 10 #OnBeat events to check out around Manitoba.

● Storytelling Day featuring the Buffalo Gals Drum Group at The Forks — Buffalo Gals will lead 400 students to sing, dance, share and drumming together. Lessons will cover discussions about the importance of drumming in Indigenous communities.

● Dancing Down Main Street in Flin Flon — It’s exactly what it sounds like. Absolutely no experience necessary and pet-friendly (if your pets like to dance). Participants will dance to Summertime by Flin Flon musician Evan Zach.

● Culture On The Crescent in Portage la Prairie — Follow the beat of your heart and down the pathway of Portage la Prairie’s Crescent Lake for hands-on workshops, live performances and more.

● Piñatas on the Beat by MexYcan Association at Théâtre Cercle Molière — Piñatas have been part of the Mexican tradition for hundreds of years, bringing celebration and joy to the people involved. Learn what they represent and their history through workshops and a piñata-breaking celebration.

● MB DANCE DAY at the RWB — A collaboration between Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Dance Manitoba Inc., and Rainbow Stage invites all ages and levels to come together and to learn an original piece of hip-hop choreography by three hip-hop choreographers, culminating in a informal performance.

● Pictures at an Exhibit in Flin Flon — Accomplished and acclaimed Flin Flon artists, musician and improvisational expert Mark Kolt, will interpret the visual art and current exhibition at the NorVA Centre.

● Poetry Slam at the PHAC in Morden — Get your “word” on at the Pembina Hills Arts Council. Friday night, the PHAC will open its door and invite community members for a poetry slam.

● MASS Appeal — Percussion by Winnipeg Arts Council — Mass Appeal is public concert series. Anyone who wants to participate can. Led by professional percussionist Scott Senior (the Duhks, Trio Bembe), participants will learn how to play a series of songs on the spot. Bring your own instrument or use one of the drums provided.

● Dauphin’s Yardfringe — Pedal to the beat with a bicycle tour and be part of part of a collaborative art project, watch a short play, listen to a musical performance or sing-along, or try your hand at reader’s theatre.

● Drumming to the Beat with Val Vint and WHEAT Institute at The Forks — Join in an Indigenous drumming circle with Métis cultural teacher Val Vint, who has been offering drumming and singing circles around Manitoba for 30+ years.

Source: Culture Days Manitoba

Friday’s unveiling of This Place is one of the 470 free cultural events happening this weekend as part of Culture Days Manitoba, an annual three-day celebration of art and culture — the things that make this place our place. From Sept. 28-30, Culture Days will be celebrated in 26 communities, towns and cities in Manitoba.

The Winnipeg Arts Council believes in the importance of decolonization through public art. To that end, This Place is the result of several years of consultation with the Mayor’s Indigenous Advisory Circle, as well as Indigenous artists, elders, knowledge-keepers, curators and scholars. "It’s like an iceberg," says Alexis Kinloch, the project manager of public art at the Winnipeg Arts Council. "You’re seeing the public art part, but below or before that came a lot of asking questions and listening."

The four works that compose This Place are striking and varied: Belmore and Yero used concrete and weathering steel to create O-ween du muh waun (We were told), a stack of school chairs erected as an "anti-monument" to forced colonial education. Lavallee’s The Square Dancers is an ode to jigging, the traditional dance of the Métis — itself a symbol of resilience — in blue-painted steel. Souliere’s Mediating the Treaties is a vivid $3 coin that "captures the ambivalence of Treaty No. 1."

Artist Julie Nagam with her new public art installation at Air Canada Park in Winnipeg.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Artist Julie Nagam with her new public art installation at Air Canada Park in Winnipeg.

Nagam’s Electrical Currents, meanwhile, is an abstract water turbine made from glass and steel.

"I’d been thinking about my time in northern Manitoba — I lived in Thompson for six-and-a-half years — and I’ve seen a big chunk of the hydroelectric developments that have happened in northern and central Manitoba," says Nagam, who was one of the co-curators of the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Insurgence/Resurgence Indigenous contemporary art exhibition that was on display last winter. "I was really interested in bringing to light the aspects that southern Manitobans might not be aware of. I was interested in thinking about how we’re constantly consuming energy without understanding where that energy comes from. We know that hydroelectricity is one of the better sources, but it still has detrimental effects on communities."

Together, these four works create a space for reflection, celebration and connection, as well as representation and reclamation.

"When we think about what reflects a place, public art is a big part of that," Kinloch says. "The artists in this case spent time in this park and talked to people who spend time in this park. That’s the importance of public art: reflecting the meaning of community. It can also be a place-making thing as well. Something that becomes iconic and exciting for people can act as a meeting place as well."

“It sparks people’s curiosity. It reaches masses of people in a way that a gallery or museum can’t. It can shed light on political and social issues that can get ignored or forgotten" — Julie Nagam on the role of public art in society

That kind of collective excitement about art has been a big driver of Culture Days’ growth, says Nicole Matiation, co-chair of the Culture Days Manitoba board of directors. Since 2013, Winnipeg has consistently outpaced other Culture Days cities in Canada in terms of number of events hosted, but Culture Days is not just a Winnipeg thing. Dauphin, Flin Flon, Gimli, Morden, Virden and The Pas are all featured cultural "hubs" this year.

"Because arts and culture is about place and because they’re about people gathering, it’s spread all over the province," Matiation says. "We often point to Flin Flon because it’s been such an amazing example of how a place that already has a strong engagement with arts and culture can really grow and expand through a regular activity that then starts focusing this energy around arts and culture into a single weekend." (In 2017, Flin Flon was No. 3 in the country for number of events hosted, just behind Toronto.)

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Nicole Matiation, co-chair of Culture Days Manitoba, speaks at the Culture Days Manitoba and Nuit Blanche Winnipeg media launch.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Nicole Matiation, co-chair of Culture Days Manitoba, speaks at the Culture Days Manitoba and Nuit Blanche Winnipeg media launch.

Public art has the power to keep the party going all year round, so to speak. The works in This Place, for one example, will have lives beyond the three-day festival; every day is a culture day in a city with a strong public art scene.

"(Public art) marks space in a different way," says Nagam, who has long advocated for more public art in Winnipeg. "It sparks people’s curiosity. It reaches masses of people in a way that a gallery or museum can’t. It can shed light on political and social issues that can get ignored or forgotten.

"Cities that are rich in culture are rich in all aspects. They’re economically strong, they’re socially strong, they’re emotionally strong. I think people can underestimate the power of art, but it can bring communities together, it can spark dialogue, and it’s the sign of a healthy, thriving city."

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @JenZoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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