Summer hasn’t officially started but Weekender’s decided to take a short vacation. Or at least I’m heading out – home to see some of my family in Winnipeg.
I’ve had many friends and acquaintances pass through and ask me for a list of places and things to see – “my Winnipeg” I guess. And since in Chicago I’ve developed this strange sideline-slash-job as a weekend planner, I thought I’d share some of the sights and sounds I’ll be sure to check out on my visit.
My hometown sometimes gets a bad rap – I remember reading a line from a Faulkner novel in which a character, looking out over a desolate scene, likens it to other remote and unhappy places, including Winnipeg! Even locals have their issues -- check out this blog documenting what the photographer calls "the most beautiful, most repulsive city in the world."
But the city has actually thrived and its population remained pretty stable, at least in part because it has such a great arts and culture scene. Winnipeg has all the high-end establishments – a symphony, ballet and contemporary art museum. But it’s also always had a great underground scene – from punk to speakeasies to art collectives.
This trip I’ll visit Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, which started out as an artist-run center and has over the years morphed into a player within the international art scene. I think this is one of the places that provided my early multi-media arts education. Plug In is celebrating its 40th anniversary in amazing new digs, so I’ll be checking out both the latest exhibit and the new space.
Since I’ve invoked film -- and Guy Madden -- a trip to The Winnipeg Film Group is obviously in order (besides it's not far from Plug In!). The Group’s Cinematheque is where Madden’s Tales from the Gimli Hospital debuted (he’s still an honorary member), and they’ve helped launch the careers of many other film talents, with screenings and classes. The week I’m home they’ll screen Family Portrait in Black and White though I wish I was going to be there the following week for this retrospective.
There are thrift stores and parks and neighborhoods I'll hit up (I love franco-manitobain St. Boniface) but I'm going to make extra sure to visit of my favorite restaurants. The Wagon Wheel Lunch is an old school hole-in-the-wall in downtown Winnipeg. Their club sandwich is amazingly good – made with roast turkey they prepare fresh every day. It used to be a regular hangout for journalists from the nearby offices of the Winnipeg Free Press.
But lots has changed – the original owner died a few years ago and Franny Gomez took over – she’s worked there since emigrating to Winnipeg from El Salvador more than 20 years ago. Now there’s a major do-over planned for downtown, which means the building housing the Wagon Wheel will be torn down.
Gomez doesn’t know if she’ll relocate or not, but they’ve got the current spot until July so I’ve got time for one more sandwich and chocolate milkshake. Though given the extent of gentrification on the way – which includes removing entire blocks of historic Winnipeg - a whole bunch of my city may be gone next trip back.
A great Chicago weekend awaits you below – and we’ll see you back on Weekender June 22! In the meantime, get out there, and enjoy!
Friday 6:30 p.m. - 1:00 a.m.
Threewalls art center holds its annual spring benefit by going back to a 1930s jazz club!
Stan Mansion 2408 N. Kedzie Ave
Saturday 12 p.m.
Local organist Dennis Scott brings the soundtrack!
3733 N. Southport Ave.
Is it an Alien prequel? Is it any good? These questions and more can only be answered in the dark of a movie or IMAX theater.
Click here to subscribe to the Weekender podcast.