This is a crazy world we live in. A house party is where a group of people get together to stare at their phones. You can have a thousand friends and no meaningful conversation. A peanut can be fatal and injected botulism can be beautiful.
In this crazy world, Winnipeg sits in the bull’s-eye centre of the continent—and is considered the fringe of Canadian society. It’s weird but we have everything that any other great city has. Talented young people, eccentric older people, outlaws, free thinkers, saints and the devout. Yet we seem only to be able to accommodate the middle demographic comfortably.
It’s heartbreaking to watch talent and ambition drain from here, year after year. I’ve been here for a mere thirteen years yet I’m seeing the trend play out right in front of me.
I watch gifted musicians develop into formidable artists as great as any in the world. They grow here to a point that the city can no longer accommodate them—and then they either leave or get frustrated and diminish. The ones that stay will languish awhile and then make another big effort. They rise again to a high level but again they suffocate for lack of “oxygen” and fall. Each subsequent time they rise, they rise to yet a lower height and fall to yet a deeper depth, until they ultimately steady out at some compromised level of mediocrity. It’s sad to watch.
I need ideas, folks. I want us to be the real centre. We have the talent. There is even the money here, but there’s not enough vision. Why must our talent and brain trust go to Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, the US, or some far-off land to realize their dreams?
Winnipeg is where the arts want to live! We just have to dream a little bit bigger.
Calgary recently opened a national music centre. I think we can do something like that too, but bigger! Expand the concept to cover all the arts. The symphony, the ballet, Winnipeg’s artists, film and theatre, our various musical entities, and the universities can work together to make Winnipeg a national centre for the arts. It won’t be that far of a reach!
Our people will be able to see collaborative events that involve the whole gamut of our creativity. The people of this city can be immersed in beauty and inspiration, and be exposed to a high level of humanity so that, when they go out from here, they become ambassadors for the Winnipeg lifestyle. People from far and wide will want to come here to see what we do, and how we live.
We have to dream big here in Winnipeg. A positive step for me was the creation of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. Whatever your political view of that place, the ideal behind it is still unimpeachable. I think we can build on this, each part of our society in kind—the arts, science, industry, everyone. Dream big! Accommodate our talent.
Some of the most inspirational musicians, poets, artists, sculptors, scientists in the world come from right here in Winnipeg. Let’s in turn inspire them to stay here.