Jamboree by Lauren Hortie (Sonya Reynolds)
Winnipeg's Exchange District is a swell place, packed with intact turn-of-the-20th-century buildings and cool, very contemporary galleries, restaurants and indie boutiques. But it's nothing without people.
First Fridays is all about getting people out. A program that's worked in dozens of American and Canadian cities, it's been going in Winnipeg's Exchange District since last August. It's a simple idea: On the first Friday evening of every month, everyone in this heritage neighbourhood works together to draw a crowd, offering art, music, food and fun. It's meant to generate that indefinable sense of big-city buzz, as people spill out of galleries, walk the streets, and linger at cafe tables.
This Friday, artists will be showing off their studios, while galleries will be hosting openings and launches. (Look for Cyrus Smith at Gurevich Fine Art, a group show at Pixels 2.1, and open-door programming at Fleet Galleries, Mayberry Fine Art, artbeat studio and Martha Street Studio.) You can have a late dinner at Deseo's, browse for Scandinavian teak at Hoopers, or grab an imperial cookie at Cake-ology. Many small businesses will be extending their usual hours to 9:00 pm, and some events should go on to the small hours.
Aceart at 290 McDermot is really getting into the First Friday spirit with a launch party for Gay & Night, a show that's actually all about nightlife. Toronto-based artist Lauren Hortie combines funny pop-culture references and offbeat comic-book stylings to celebrate the queer club scene, which historically has allowed gay people a way to form identities, build communities and foster social activism.
The show includes posters for Steers and Queers, a regular Toronto event that offers a "Gay Ole Opry" twist on country & western music. (A Brokeback Mountain-era Jake Gyllenhall is here, along with k.d. lang and Melissa Etheridge, while Lindsay Lohan and former girlfriend Sam Ronson take on the roles of June and Johnny Cash.) Celebrating the creative, can-do DIY spirit that gets people making costumes, dressing up and taking part in what Hortie calls "participatory performance art," Gay & Night also features large-scale charcoal drawings of burlesque performers and drag queens.
And of course, Hortie also just wants to have fun, which is why she'll be throwing a big dance-party bash at ace on Friday night, in her incarnation as DJ Sigourney Beaver.
(Incidentally, this show also segues into the Pride Festival, a celebration of Winnipeg's gay community, which wraps this weekend with a rally, a parade and a party.)
Alison Gillmor, CBC reviewer