A queen's list for the Queen City: An artist's guide to falling in love with Regina
Artist Zachari Logan takes you deep inside the Saskatchewan capital
Everyone knows about the art scenes in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — but what about Kamloops, Calgary or Thunder Bay? In CBC Arts's continuing series "I He(art) My City," a local artist offers an insider's guide to the city they call home. Here, artist Zachari Logan takes you on a tour of Regina, in his home province of Saskatchewan.
Last year, CBC Arts asked me to give you my top ten for Saskatoon, my hometown. This time around, I've been asked to share the same for my current home in Regina. So here goes…
Saskatchewan's capital city is a charming, big-ish, small-ish town, with underrated beauty: big skies, bigger storms; downtown back alley's brimming with gorgeous wildflowers; fantastic architecture; very important moments in Canadian history X; and Wascana, one of the largest parks in North America, spanning 9.3 square kilometres… larger than both Central Park in New York and Stanley Park in Vancouver, combined.
Wascana: Weeds, walking and weather…
Per capita, Regina's gem of a green space is the largest area for a civic park on the entire continent — so let's start here. Wascana is a huge urban park that snakes through the entire city. It's designed around Wascana Lake, which while man-made, has many wilder beings that live there and visit throughout the year. These include rabbits, Canadian geese, pelicans, frogs, beavers, muskrats, ravens, swans and many other beings. While I was faculty in the department of Media, Art and Performance at the University of Regina, I enjoyed walking from our apartment downtown through back-alleys filled with wildflowers during the summer months. As a pathway and the greening crown of the Queen City, these daily walks allowed scheduled sunbathing and one of my other vocations, as a flaneur. Wascana houses several very important buildings and institutions in Regina: the Saskatchewan Legislature Building, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Conexus Arts Centre, Royal Saskatchewan Museum, First Nations University of Canada, and the Saskatchewan Science Centre.
The Legislature Building
In 1944 the CCF (later the NDP) became the Province's government, and thus the first social democratic government in Canada or the US. Under the leadership of Tommy Douglas, the people of Saskatchewan brought into being universal public health care, the first public arts board in North America, the Saskatchewan Arts Board and public enterprises to bring electricity, transportation and telephone service to the entire Province. As the struggles to bring these parts of the public good into being were focused on the majestic beaux arts style legislative building, it is worth a visit to the "Leg" to pay respect to this history. Itself a creature of public work, the Saskatchewan Legislature was an immense considered structure for it's time, and it remains so today
Before Tommy, the CPR's expansion west to British Columbia required a regime amenable to building railroads. The Northwest Resistance of 1885, lead by Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont and an associated uprising by First Nations Cree and Assiniboine, was perceived in Canada as a threat to this program, rather than what it actually was, a democratic expression of grievance to protect their rights. After armed forces from the east suppressed the resistance, Riel's subsequent trial and execution took place in Regina. A small plaque in Victoria Park is the only acknowledgement of this history in the City. The plaque states that the trial occurred "60 steps" from it, but fails to acknowledge how the resistance changed the course of Canadian history.
As Regina is located on Treaty 4 land, the original lands of the Cree, Ojibwe, Saulteaux, Dakota, Nakota, Lakota, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation, it's important to know this history… you can attend 'The Trial of Louis Riel' written as a Centennial project in 1967 by John Coulter at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, and/or you can visit the oldest building in Regina, the RCMP Chapel, where Riel was held for a time after his trial.
More architectural treasures...
Regina is wealthy in architectural treasures. Other than the important buildings I've mentioned already, I want to name my absolute favourite, the SaskPower Building, designed by Joseph Pettick. A truly amazing and peculiar edifice, it is Regina's best example of modern architecture, in my opinion pushing the envelope toward post-modern form. The colour of the building references wheat fields and its swaying form represents wind. This building to me, is an elaborately adorned sculpture, with beautiful tile work throughout and a remarkable attention to detail. Other notable buildings include the First Nations University of Canada (designed by Douglas Cardinal), the RCMP Heritage Centre (designed by Arthur Ericksons), the CBC building (designed by Clifford Wiens), the Dominion Building (a beautiful example of Art Deco) and the Prince Edward Building, which houses Regina's Globe Theatre.
Galleries and museums!
Regina has a remarkable amount of public art galleries and museums. The largest of these institutions, the Mackenzie Art Gallery, is an impressive museum with 24,000 square feet of exhibition space. It presents important exhibitions and fosters an impressive collection of historical and contemporary Canadian and international art. The Dunlop Art Gallery is another great gallery providing challenging exhibitions of local, national and international artists to the public, located in the Regina Public Library. Neutral Ground is Regina's artist-run centre, which recently moved into a wonderful new space on Scarth Street. The Art Gallery of Regina, located in the Neil Balkwell Centre, a multi-use arts building, providing further exposure of Saskatchewan and regional artists.
If you visit in September, you might be in Regina for the renowned Queer City Cinema, a wonderful international LGBTQ film and performance festival. Sakewewak Artists Collective, an indigenous initiative presenting great exhibitions, events and a yearly "storytellers festival" round out and reflect a city brimming with interest in the arts. The recently relocated Slate Fine Art Gallery represents an extensive roster of provincial and national artists, including Vic Cicansky, David Thauburger and the late Joe Fafard, among many others.
Food and drink
There's plenty of joy to be found at a table in the Queen City. Regina —I was recently told — has it's very own style of pizza, and I have to admit I've had some great pizza since moving here. My favourite by far is Trifon's on Broad Street, but others swear by Houston Pizza, Western Pizza and Tumblers Pizza.
My overall favourite dish is served up by Grekos. Called fragokota, it's cornish hen stuffed with tomatoes and feta and covered in game sauce. My favourite restaurant overall, meanwhile, is likely Shynok, a family run Ukrainian restaurant on Broad Street, with otherworldly borsht.
Other great spots include Avenue and Luigi's, and for really great coffee hit up Cafe Royale in the Hotel Saskatchewan and 33 1/3 Coffee Roasters. Both the Italian Star Deli and the Ukrainian Co-op are long-standing gems, and from late spring until the snow flies, there is Milky Way, a lovely vintage spot to grab ice cream.
As a karaoke addict, I've searched out a few of the many spots in town, and regularly haunt Black Arrow Social Club, Q Nightclub and Crown & Hand. Victoria's Tavern is a great downtown pub as is the Cathedral Social Hall, and Bushwakker Brewing in the Warehouse district is also a great spot for food and a long list of brews.