Antony and Cleopatra and the Mosquitoes

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antony and cleopatra shakespeare in the ruinsI’m a huge Shakespeare in the Ruins fans and can still remember almost every play I’ve seen by the talented company.  I’ve been going to their performances for years. I loved their presentation of The Tempest, their Romeo and Juliet in a parking garage and their production of Amid Summer Night’s Dream in a downtown park. Last year’s Comedy of Errors was a complete delight.  We took visitors from Hong Kong and they were so impressed. 

shakespeare in the ruinsI have to say that this year’s Antony and Cleopatra might be my least favorite of all their productions. For me having the characters wear First Nations costumes and setting the play in pre-confederation Canada just didn’t work. The story of how the indigenous people of Canada were robbed of sovereignty of their own land is of vital importance and needs to be told; but aligning that story with the story of Antony and…

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Living In An Art Gallery

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Winnipeg is a breath away from Canada’s heart. I live at the city’s center in The Exchange District. In 1887 when wheat was prairie gold, savvy entrepreneurs organized a grain exchange and turned this area into a thriving business district. We own a condo in a century old warehouse built by hardware merchant and Winnipeg mayor James Ashdown.

Many of the Exchange District’s corporate residents have been devoted art patrons, so our streets are studded with larger than life public art pieces. I see three when I walk out my front door.

caribou crossing portage and mainStraight ahead eleven massive caribou ford a river. A trio scales the steep bank while the others battle for their lives in the rushing water. Their antlers sprawl like bony tree branches in silhouette against the downtown skyscrapers. The sculpture Seal River Crossing by Peter Sawatsky reminds me that my city stands on land that was once home…

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Why I’m Looking Forward to October 1

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andre lewis director royal winnipeg ballet“I have two children and I can’t imagine having them taken away from me like that.” Royal Winnipeg Ballet artistic director Andre Lewis is talking about how First Nations children were sent to residential schools across Canada. That experience is the focus of the ballet company’s new work  Going Home Star. going home star royal winnipeg balletThe work was inspired by local aboriginal activist and politician Mary Richard who passed away in 2010. According to Lewis it brings together not only the aboriginal and non-aboriginal community in our country but a group of incredibly talented Canadians.  I have tickets for opening night.  I went to hear Andre Lewis give a talk about Going Home Star at the Millenium Library last week and here’s five reasons I’m really excited about the performance

tina keeper1. I was a North of 60 fan and its star Tina Keeper is one of the producers of Going Home Star.

orenda2. I…

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I Went To Jail

Vaughn Street Jail WinnipegOn Saturday I got a look inside the Vaughn Street Jail on a tour that was part of Winnipeg’s annual Doors Open event. The jail housed its first inmates in 1881.earle nelson gorilla killerAs we waited for our turn to enter the building an actor playing the role of serial killer Earle Nelson told us his shocking and violent life story.  Nelson was hung at the Vaughn Street Jail in 1928.margaret scott winnipeg social worker

We were greeted at the front door by  Margaret Scott a social reformer who dedicated forty-five years of her life to helping the poor and marginalized people of Winnipeg, including nursing sick and dying female inmates of the Vaughn Street Jail. cora hindAt the first stop on our tour journalist Cora Hind told us that women, children and men were all housed together at Vaughn Street in the early years. Abuse and assault were everyday occurrences for the women and children incarcerated there.  Nurses Amelia and Lillian Yeomans who served the people in jail in the last years of the 1800s  invited Cora to visit and she wrote a newspaper story about the deplorable conditions in the prison. child prisoners vaughn street jailCora invited a couple of the children in the audience to try their hand at potato peeling and laundry two of the tasks assigned the kids in the Vaughn Street Jail. thomas dalyManitoba was the first province to implement the Juvenile Delinquents Act passed in 1908 and Thomas Daly the first Juvenile Court Judge in the province told us all about it. prostitute winnipeg early 1900s“I don’t bite unless you want me to and then it’s two dollars,” said the young actress portraying a Winnipeg prostitute who worked for Winnipeg’s notorious Madame Minnie at the turn of the century. Prostitutes seldom spent much time in the Vaughn Street Jail as long as they confined their trade to the special Point Douglas area of the city set aside for brothels. At one time some 250 women did business in 50 brothels in the Red Light District near the CPR railway station.

lunatic level of the Vaughn Street JailSince there was little understanding of mental illness at the turn of the century, people who suffered from it were called lunatics and housed in the basement of the Vaughn Street Jail.  Guards taunted them by shackling them to the floor and placing bread crumbs around their faces and hands to entice the rats to nibble on the lunatics’ skin.  The actress playing a lunatic said the unfortunate people’s screams could be heard throughout the prison as the rats attacked. solitary confinement cell vaughn street jailWe walked by the solitary confinement cells in the basement where those who broke the prison rules were housed in darkness for one or two days without a sleeping cot or toilet. Wrist and leg irons attached them to the wall.executioner arthur englishExecutioner Arthur English was hired to carry out some of the hangings that happened in the courtyard of the Vaughn Street Jail.  The first man he executed was John Krafchenko who stole $4000 from the bank in Plum Coulee, Manitoba and killed the bank manager there. vaughn street jailThe Vaughn Street Jail is 133 years old and a group incorporated in 2004 is attempting to have it designated a provincial heritage destination.  The interesting and informative presentation they gave visitors during the Doors Open event is sure to help them in that quest.

Past Doors Open visits……

A Roof With A View

Haunted by Ghosts

Ancient Objects


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We Are Sorry- Here and Down Under

we are sorry cathy busbyLast week I watched workers on tall ladders hang these huge banners in Eckhardt Hall, the two storey front lobby at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The art piece they were installing is a work called We Are Sorry and was created by Cathy Busby. She has chosen excerpts from 2008 speeches by both Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper and Australia’s prime minister Kevin Rudd.  The purpose of both speeches was to apologize for the tragedy created by the residential school system in their respective countries. Busby transferred the two prime ministers’ remarks onto 20′ x 45′ vinyl panels.

cathy busby we are sorryOriginally presented at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2010 at the invitation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada the artwork has also been displayed in other Canadian and Australian cities. 

Cathy Busby - photo by Luther Alexander

Cathy Busby – photo by Luther Alexander

Halifax artist Cathy Busby who has a PhD in communications and an MA in media from Concordia University in Montreal says about her work, “These apologies for the stolen generations in Australia and the Indian residential schools systems in Canada were of major significance when they were delivered, and yet each was a relatively fleeting moment. We are Sorry gives them a renewed and sustained presence highlighting the shared histories of these two British colonies.”

The Four Seasons of '76 by Alex Janvier

The Four Seasons of ’76 by Alex Janvier

It is perhaps fitting that Busby’s banners are being displayed again just as the Winnipeg Art Gallery prepares to open a new exhibit called Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. on May 10, 2014. 

Other related posts……….

Residential Schools- The Hiroshima of the Indian Nations

History Told in Pictures

Neechi Commons




Categories: History, Murals, Winnipeg Art Gallery | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Victoria Beach- A Checkered Past

victoria beach signI visited Victoria Beach for the first time this summer.  I knew it had been a popular summer cottage site for thousands of Winnipeg residents since the turn of the century, but during my visit and after doing some subsequent research, I discovered lots more.victoria beach pierEven though I’ve lived in Manitoba almost all my life I’d never been to this Lake Winnipeg peninsula at the end of Highway 59. In winter its home to some 450 people but in summer more than 16,000 cottagers and tourists live there. walking at victoria beachYou can’t drive your car into Victoria Beach. You have to walk, bike or take a beach taxi. cottage at victoria beach

The first summer visitors began coming in the early 1900s and arrived on a boat called Pilgrim. Once the railroad line was completed and trains started running to Victoria Beach in 1916 the population expanded. club house victoria beach manitoba

A community club was organized in 1921 and in 1925 this clubhouse was built which is still being used today. As a member of the club, you can take part in all kinds of community-organized events, golf tournaments on the course built in 1923, tennis competitions on the courts that have been happening since 1924, regattas and races. The clubhouse was the site for weekend dances, socials and movie nights. victoria beach library

VIctoria Beach even has its own library and grocery store. 

The Victoria Beach Herald newspaper has been publishing every summer for the last 83 years.  In 1943 it became the centre of a controversy when a Jewish family bought a cottage at Victoria Beach. The paper published an editorial which said………”You have an obligation to your neighbours at Victoria Beach to see to it that these unwanted people…….are not permitted to buy or rent here.”  A counter editorial in the Winnipeg Free Press criticized the antisemitism being practised at Victoria Beach calling it “sanctimonious and  cowardly.”

The Victoria Beach paper is available online now on the Victoria Beach website. moonlight inn victoria beachThe Moonlight Inn is famous for its ice-cream and that’s what we decided to order when we visited the spot about halfway through our walk around Victoria Beach. We did briefly consider the daily special below but we’d had a late breakfast and it seemed a bit too hearty. daily special moonlight inn victoria beach

einfeld's bakery victoria beach

Perhaps the most popular business at Victoria Beach is Einfeld’s Bakery which opened in the 1930s and is still being run by the same family. In a column in the Winnipeg Free Press, Margo Goodhand writes about her childhood memories of buying delicious baking there. pier at victoria beach

We walked down to the pier where swimmers might have populated the water on a nicer day, but it was cold and windy. parasailing victoria beach

The para sailors were having a great time though. victoria beach windy day

Victoria Beach is a beautiful and historic place and has been a popular summer destination for thousands of Winnipeg residents for over a century. I’m glad I finally got to see it. 

Other lakeside posts……..

A Walk At Hillside Beach

Walk At Louise Lake

The Wave- Art in the Interlake

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Winnipeg’s Kelly House- A Home with a Long History

kelly house 88 adelaide streetThis charming home is right here in my Exchange District neighborhood at 88 Adelaide Street, but I had never noticed it till just a couple of weeks ago when I was on  a walk. Built in 1884 it stands as the lone residential dwelling on a street of warehouses, factories and businesses. In 2010 it became the home of Cancer Care Manitoba. 

sunburst motif gables kelly house winnipegI loved the sunburst gingerbread motif on the gables. When I got home from my walk I did some research to learn about the house. thomas kelly winnipegThe house was built by Michael Kelly a contractor originally from Ireland in 1894 for a cost of $2.200. In 1875 the land on which it stood had been given to Alexander McDermott as part of a Crown grant. He sold it to John McKechnie, the Scottish owner of a Winnipeg foundry who in turn sold it to Michael Kelly and his brother Thomas.  Michael lived in the house till 1894. 

kelly house oldMichael and Thomas rented the house to a variety of people.  A Mrs. M Redmond rented it when Michael moved out and in 1896- J.M. Murray a printer took out a lease. James Cadham an architect settled in with his family from 1897 to 1901. Cadham had come to Manitoba from Ontario with the Wolseley Red River Expedition and stayed when he was discharged. By 1908 there was a boarding house at 88 Adelaide run by Mrs. Margaret Little and it was in that same year Thomas became the sole owner of the house. kelly house 2004In 1922 the house was seized by the city of Winnipeg because its owner Thomas Kelly was involved in a big scandal and had failed to pay his taxes. Kelly was arrested for perjury, embezzlement and fraud and although he tried to escape to the United States ended up being sentenced to two  and a half years in Stony Mountain prison. He had been given a contract to build the Manitoba Legislative Buildings and was charged with graft and corruption and lost the contract.  Turns out he was lowering wages and changing building specifications to keep costs down to the unrealistically low bid he’d made. An article in the New York Times claimed he had defrauded the Manitoba government of some $1.182,562. According to an article by Bruce Cherney Kelly only served a nine months of his prison sentence and not behind bars, but staying at the warden’s house and passing his days playing poker. kelly house 2007A whole variety of people owned 88 Adelaide after that, a restaurateur, a hotel proprietor, and a sportswear company.  In 1982 the Winnipeg Film Group had its offices there.
back of kelly house 2004

In 2007 the house was incorporated into the plot of a series of children’s middle years fantasy books called The Serpent’s Spell written by Rae Bridgman.  The 2008 annual report of Centre Venture says they will partner with the City of WInnipeg and Adelaide Investments Group to restore Kelly House as the new headquarters for Heritage Winnipeg.

Photo by Gordon Goldsborough

Photo by Gordon Goldsborough

But I also read the house was in danger of being razed for a parking lot in 2010 and Cancer Care Manitoba saved it and renovated it. The sign on the door today says it is the home of Cancer Care Manitoba as does the Manitoba Historical Society website. 88 adelaide street winnipeg

If you enjoyed this post you might also like…………

Winnipeg’s Millenium Centre- Haunted by Ghosts

Winnipeg The Chicago of the North

We’re Living in a Piece of History

Categories: Buildings, Exchange District, History, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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