Plug In Grand Opening (Jaya Beange)
Ok, the Jets deserve some credit, but Winnipeg's cultural venues are also doing their bit for urban revitalization. A look at some new or improved hotspots along the Portage strip shows that theatre, music and the visual arts are bringing people downtown -- and maybe even encouraging them to stick around for a while.
Prairie Theatre Exchange
Plug In now complements the Winnipeg Art Gallery and anchors the big-city vista of Memorial Boulevard. Its cool, stripped-down white space is full of peek-through windows and unusual viewing angles that emphasize the experience of looking.
, for example, has recently been showing off its beautiful new reno. Working with the same footprint, architect Les Stechesen completely transformed what was a long, narrow, crowded corridor into an airy, open, sociable space. According to Greg Klassen, PTE publicity and marketing manager, the old lobby was like a hallway that seemed to rush people right out the exit. Now floor-to-ceiling glass walls, bumped-out alcoves with couches and chairs, and a comfortable lounge area invite people to linger.
The idea is to extend people's experience beyond the theatre, so that they can enjoy some post-play discussion and a glass of wine, maybe even chat with the actors. PTE has also been looking into bringing in live music, talks and play readings for before-and-after events, adding another layer to an intimate evening at the theatre. Plug In ICA
has also been generating buzz with its new purpose-built location in the Buhler Centre
, designed by David Penner, Peter Sampson and Neil Minuk. Moving from the Exchange District, where it was part of a hub of small galleries, Plug In now complements the Winnipeg Art Gallery and anchors the big-city vista of Memorial Boulevard. Its cool, stripped-down white space is full of peek-through windows and unusual viewing angles that emphasize the experience of looking.
The new Plug In also reflects the trend to mixed-use space, in which the arts share quarters with commercial ventures or community programs. Along with the gallery and its new gallery shop, the four-storey Buhler Centre houses University of Winnipeg classrooms and offices, and of course, Stella's
really good coffee and French toast. Manitoba Hydro
is also mixing it up a bit. Its Portage Avenue HQ is an incredible structure in terms of innovative green features, but a successful urban building also has to engage with its surroundings. Hydro is doing that with community events and cultural programming in its central atrium.
This massive space - it's really like an enclosed avenue connecting Portage and Graham - is currently filled with Christmas trees, wreaths and some really creative gingerbread houses as part of the annual Festival of Trees and Lights
. When I strolled through at lunchtime this week, organizers were also offering live seasonal music.
On December 9, the atrium will host an evening of Christmas blues and jazz, a big multi-performer collaboration with Juss Jazz
. Another cool cultural venue that's just opened up down the street, Juss Jazz is a cosmopolitan club that will showcase our town's down-deep jazz talent.
Music, art and, this year, maybe even some crowds. Like the song says, "It's Christmastime in the city."
Alison Gillmor, CBC Reviewer
Pictured above, the new lounge and lobby of PTE (Carman Johnston); the Buhler Centre exterior (Jocelyn Tanner); Festival of Trees and Lights at Manitoba Hydro (Robert Wilson).