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Winnipeg’s Greatest Summer Job

A look back on the Greatest Summer Job

September 4, 2013

The Greatest Summer Job was, quite truly, the greatest. I had so many wonderful experiences over the past few weeks.

The highlights of my summer in residence:

  1. Photos by Tony Nardella. While I aimed to live like a typical student in residence, Tony’s offer was one I could not refuse. Normally, I am sure a shoot like this would have cost a few hundred dollars, but Tony was very generous and donated his time (and so did Berns and Black). Not only did I feel very pampered, but I now have these lovely photos to show everyone!
    smile arms crossed
  2. Meeting the CentreVenture people. I learned so much in a short amount of time as I walked with Loretta to and from our tour of a condo. It was a lovely way to get to know an organization.
  3. The trolley tour. I had lots of fun speaking with Chinese exchange students and learning more trivia about Winnipeg and the city’s history. I would recommend this activity to anyone.
  4. Discovering that people read the blog. Occasionally, I would run into someone who would recognize me and say, “I read your blog!” It was so great to read people’s responses in the comments, too. I am glad that there are so many eyes on RRC’s residence and on the Exchange.
  5. The magic of Folk Fest.
  6. Going to the beach! It was possibly the worst day to go to the beach – cold wind but hot sun was mostly confusing to the skin. However, spending time with some fellow residents made it a highlight of my summer. Fun fact: I was going through some emotional stuff that day, but these lovely folks helped me keep it together.
    Res students and RAs
  7. Finding out that baseball is not boring.
  8. Learning to talk to the media. Contrary to what one might assume, I am not a CreComm graduate. I studied Film at the University of Manitoba, and so, the world of press releases and interviews was rather new to me this summer. I got to experience being on live television and having a video made about the job (when usually I am on the other side of the camera). I would like to take a moment to thank Conor for guiding me through these activities, and to thank the journalists involved, who made everything very enjoyable.
  9. In general, living in the residence. Being so close to the heart of the Exchange District meant that I was spitting distance from all the action – instead of going to festivals and events, they came to me. I have to thank Chris for getting me in there and settled. You made this the Greatest Summer Job!

Thanks also to Christian for his support throughout the project! Also, thanks to everyone who got behind the project: Bodegoes, Smoke’s Poutinerie, Fox and Fiddle, Cake-ology, MEME, Red River College’s Bookstore, Bern’s and Black Salon, Tony Nardella Photography…. If I have forgotten anyone, I am sorry.

And to those places I didn’t get to visit (namely, Pan Am Boxing), I am sorry I was too busy to get in there. I will probably take a class when life slows down (if it ever slows down).

I have been feeling quite sad to say goodbye to everyone in the building. The staff at CulEx and the security guards were my constant companions for a month and a half. I know I will be returning from time to time, just to say hi to Mo and Ali and Mary and the whole gang. I appreciate all that you guys did for me while I stayed in residence.

Some stats:

Number of weeks I stayed at the residence: 6.

Number of toilet paper rolls I went through: 8.

Number of times I had to eliminate a bad odour from my fridge: 1.

Number of times I injured myself: 2 (a burn and a twisted ankle).

Number of spam comments on the blog as of right now: 162.

Number of times I did laundry: 2 (it was a stretch sometimes).

Now you know!

A different kind of MJ: Wednesday song of the Week

September 4, 2013

I have been hard at work on a documentary featuring some fantastic young talent from this city, and there is one artist in particular whose work I would like to share.

Her name is marijosee, also known as MJ Clement. She makes funky Francophone music, greatly inspired by one of my favourite French musicians, Camille.

This song has been in my head since I met her on Sunday. Shoutout to Tyler Funk for the great video!

Sweet beats

August 20, 2013

When you’re having a bad day, Cake-ology is perhaps the best place to turn.

When you enter, you’re presented with a beautiful scene: pretty, delicate sweets lined up pleasantly in the display case and bakers hard at work in the background.

Each item you purchase has a different way of making your day brighter.

For me, I prefer the cakettes. These little balls of deliciousness crumble in your mouth, but not in your hand, so they are perfect for a snack on the go.

cakettes and cookies

For those more ambitious, you can have at one of their cupcakes, which come in a variety of delectable flavors. Here, I even got a gluten-free one, which tasted just as good as the rest of them.


It’s impressive that Cake-ology serves gluten-free options – in a cake shop, it would require a great deal of diligence to ensure that no flour touches these treats. In my taster’s pack, I also received a gluten-free lemon bar, which was lemony and lovely.

Happiness restored, thanks to the sugar and smiles at Cake-ology!

The reason my smile had diminished somewhat over the weekend was because I finished my term at the GSJ Blog. I am officially done, but I got somewhat backlogged with work, which is why I am finishing the blog now.

Moving out from the downtown was a sad affair, and it came poorly timed, because MEME kicked off on my last day in the residence.

The Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition is this wicked weekend-long party. I don’t know how they manage to find locations to party at until 4 am, but this is what they do.

Their outdoor stage is always a pleasure to check out. This year, though, I got to go into their indoor venues, too.

Friday night, the “after-party” was at the WAG. Music and visuals started at 10 pm, but most people showed up after midnight, once the Cube was closed down. I particularly enjoyed music by The Librarian. She is possibly the coolest librarian ever.

There was a rooftop party, too, and with the weather being so cooperative, it was great to get fresh air while also listening to some beats.

Let’s not forget about the visuals. There was this glowing head….

The VJ screen in a zigzaggy shape….

modular screen

This modular screen can be taken apart and reoriented to make other shapes. The photo does not do it justice – it is very impressive looking.

And an interactive push screen made out of stretchy material.


Saturday, everyone headed to Pantages, which I considered to be a strange location. When I first arrived, there were so many people outside that I wondered how packed it could possibly be inside.

It became clear that many had gone outside to beat the heat. It was pretty cool in the main room, but down in the three other spaces, it became increasingly sweltering. But electronic music and great VJs hypnotized me, and soon I was swaying to the beat with all the other sweaty people.

LONGWALKSHORTDOCK was the highlight of my weekend (as you’ll see in this video I made below), and I actually stuck around until the end of the night (yes, 4 am) because it was such a good time.

I was stumbling distance from my old home at Red River’s residence, but I caught a ride back to St. Vital.

It was a bittersweet end to an awesome stay downtown – sweet, because of things like Cakeology and Cul Ex and Bodegoes and Cinematheque, but bitter, simply because it was over.

Culture Hopping!

August 13, 2013

This weekend I spent much of my time exploring the many cultural activities that Winnipeg has to offer, though it happened mostly by accident.

My work (in video production) takes me all over the city and sometimes beyond the city’s borders. I signed up for a series of projects this weekend, but I didn’t realize that I would get to experience a smorgasbord of cultures because of it.

Canadians love to emphasize our multicultural population. We don’t have a very strong national identity, which is great in this regard because it allows breathing room for immigrants from everywhere and the indigenous people who we formerly colonized (but now we feel really bad about it and are struggling to make things right again).


I scheduled for myself over 6 shoots in 4 days on various projects. A busy weekend!

My locations ranged from the usual artsy places, to historic landmarks, to festivals, to public spaces.

This is where I went:

1: NAfro Dance Studio. Choreographer Zab Maboungou was in from Montreal setting a work on NAfro Dance Company. Very cool stuff. Zab creates contemporary African works. NAfro is a great company to go see to experience powerful, energetic, and visually stunning dance work. Their season begins in the fall.

2: The School of Contemporary Dancers. Jolene Bailie’s showing of contemporary dance work Hybrid Human was perfect in this location, with their black costumes on a mostly white background. It was pay-by-donation ($5 minimum suggested), so it was open for anyone curious enough to come into the room.

3: Fort Gibraltar. I was only there to shoot a wedding in the main hall, but I was reminded of how amazing this place is as soon as I approached the high walls of the fort. This is a cool place to go if you want to experience early 19th century St. Boniface, as they even have re-enactors to show you how it was done back in the day. For $8 or less, you get something much more than a movie.

4: The Scottish Folklorama pavilion. If you want to see a well-constructed show…. too bad, this pavilion is finished. But next year, be sure to check it out – the entertainment is superb (my ears are still ringing with bagpipes), and the scotch bar is fantastic, too. Not that I was drinking. I was working. 😉

5: The Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre (for its French-Canadian Folklorama pavilion). This building regularly hosts great events (and delicious food, courtesy of the Cora’s restaurant), and this week is no exception. I spent much of my time with La Compagnie de la Verendrye in the cultural gallery, but the main area sounded fantastic. Note: Tourtière is one of the reasons I am struggling to become a vegetarian. This pavilion is still on! Go!

6: Outside of APTN and the Air Canada building. This public space is a popular one for those on lunch break to escape to. Today, Graffiti Gallery and Studio 393 were there to showcase their dedication to the Manito Ahbee Festival, which is coming up quickly. They had a grass dancer and some b-boys exchanging moves, and together they made a wicked mashup performance, totally improvised.

I didn’t take any photos of these places because I was so busy working. You’ll just have to check them out yourself!

Thursday: The day I was a supermodel

August 10, 2013

Flopping out of bed (too late, as usual), I threw myself together. In my wardrobe, my favourite black blouse was hidden under a pile at the back of a shelf. I donned the wrinkled garment anyway, exhausted from a late night of Internet surfing (I’m that cool).

When I glanced in the bathroom mirror, my hair showed evidence of its usual misbehaviour, but instead of even trying to tame it, I just shuffled out the door, bags under eyes and all.

My first stop of the day: Berns and Black Salon, to get pretty for a photo shoot.

To catch me on the street with hair and makeup carefully crafted is an anomaly. I approached the salon warily. Would they ask me what I want? How do I say, “next to nothing”?

Tony Nardella of Nardella Photography had sent me a message offering portrait shots for free. I was astounded by the offer and just had to accept. My website is currently being redesigned, so why not take some pictures for the occasion?

I wanted images that were true to my normal look, as one might find me in my natural habitat. But Tony clearly wanted some makeup on my face that day, since he had hooked me up with some artists at Berns and Black. I’m so glad I went, because these are the nicest portrait photos anyone has ever taken of me, thanks in part to the prep work done there.

Alysha greeted me and welcomed me into the salon. It didn’t take her long to make my hair sleek and smooth. Despite being tempted to let her spike it up or do something playful, I stuck to a more conservative look.

hair at berns and black

HAIR BNB. (You don’t have to laugh at my jokes, but just acknowledge them, if you will).

My esthetician, Carly, was happy to create a natural look for me, but Kitty, one of the owners of the shop, suggested that I pick a bright lipstick for a pop of colour. The effect was lovely, so I thanked the artists and headed to the studio.

Alysha and Carly

Alysha and Carly at Berns and Black Salon.

I felt very glamorous as I walked through the exchange – put together, save for the wrinkled clothing. Thankfully, Tony had a steamer at the studio, so I didn’t look like a Picasso painting for much longer.

The photography studio was very easy to find, as Tony had a storefront on McDermot. He asked me about my favourite colour (orange) and set to work on the backdrop.

orange backdrop

After seeing Tony’s work on his website and in his studio, I was intrigued as to why he would offer to do this for free. My early assumption was that he was new to the work and needed portfolio items. I was dead wrong – this guy has been working in the industry for 29 years, and his work is polished and beautiful.

Lights were expertly and efficiently maneuvered around me to achieve maximum awesome. He told me that he had done work for Red River College in the past and wanted to do them a favour. I made a mental note to thank RRC, because the favour benefitted me, too.

serious wide

Modelling is serious business.

Fun portrait


Thanks to everyone at Nardella Photography and Berns and Black! This was a lovely gift.

A case of condo fever

August 9, 2013

Every time I open up my web browser, I can’t help it. It just calls to me. That itch I can’t quite scratch.

That’s right. I’m apartment hunting on Kijiji.

It saddens me to think that I’ll be moving out soon. The Exchange does feel like home.

That’s why I attended CentreVenture‘s tour of downtown living spaces on Wednesday. They took me to the Loftworks on James – condos worth $300,000 and up (minus the $10,000 incentive that CentreVenture is offering).

Loretta and Patty from CentreVenture

Patty and Loretta from CentreVenture greeted me with this banner.

As a newbie freelance videographer and blogger, I don’t have tons of money to spend on a place. I was not expecting CentreVenture to show me a condo anywhere near my price range, but I wanted to see what possibilities are out there for those who are more well-off than myself.

More realistically, I am looking at apartments beyond the Exchange: Assiniboine, West Broadway, Corydon, Osborne, St. Boniface… The Exchange District is only affordable to students here because Red River College makes it so. Really, RRC has done a lot to make this place accessible to young people.

A dorm (single) room here rents for approximately $900/month right now. It sounds high, but (a) it is furnished and (b) you get a meal plan with it – worth $300-400/month. The grocery store issue (there are not really any) is mostly solved this way. Students eat food prepared for them by other students. The cycle of life continues.

I could enrol in a single class at any nearby schools to be eligible. It’s a legitimate option! And for those who want to work off their rent, they can become an RA for the building. You, too, can live here, and for considerably cheaper than anyone else in the Exchange.

CentreVenture is obviously trying to appeal to people of a different ilk than myself. I make films. I probably will never make enough to live at the Loftworks on James. But I am curious enough to take a look at them.


They are beautiful.

Here are some photos:

The Loftworks on James

Sign for building

living room


kitchen and dining room


My guides, Loretta and Patty (along with Lisa, the real estate agent), were very knowledgeable about the condo business.

I really enjoyed walking with Loretta to and from the condo. She would point at buildings and tell me their stories. She knew about each building’s history, which ones were in current use, whether that use was commercial or residential or both, and what plans lay in store for it.

I discovered that I have a lot to learn about urban planning, too.

I came away excited by seeing vacant buildings transformed into beautiful living spaces. Ultimately, though, I felt disappointed because those places are not for people like me. They are those who can afford it: empty nesters from the suburbs looking to downsize or yuppies with more conventional employment.

Don’t get me wrong – if I had money to spare I would invest in one of those suites pronto (and there are a few places that are cheaper, too). However, I would like to see more affordable housing in the Exchange created to match the number of snazzier places, if only to diversify the population.

I have spent the last couple of days investigating this city’s history with urban revitalization and gentrification (yes, I just bombed you with links – you’re welcome), and I am still discovering the ins and outs of it all. It seems to me that these are complex issues that require much discussion to resolve, and that means that CentreVenture, the Exchange District Biz, Residents of the Exchange District, and even the average Joe living in the area have to be in constant communication to ensure that city planners meet their own specific needs.

So… if anyone knows about an affordable 1 or 2 bedroom in or around downtown, please let me know.

Side note: Patty from CentreVenture sent me this interesting article. Turns out women are more into downtown living. I meet opposition from the SO sometimes, so I can attest to this firsthand.

Dinner and a Ballgame!

August 9, 2013

Forgive me, body, for I have sinned. It has been one week since I last did any sort of physical activity.

I’ve been walking a lot, but that is often not enough. Tonight, I will have to head to Yoga Public or some such place to get my movement fix.

Speaking of physical activities (and weak segues)….

Last night, I attended a Winnipeg Goldeyes game for the first time in, oh, maybe 15 years. It wasn’t like taking a trip down memory lane. It was a brand new experience. For someone who has been going to events downtown for 5 years or so, it is a pleasant surprise to find something so outside of my normal routine.

goldeyes game

Rather like the out-of-town Fringe performer who told me excitedly that she wanted to attend a “Goldeneyes” game with me once the festival was done, I am uneducated about our local baseball team.

My brother is on the up-and-up with the baseball world, so I took him along to my Dinner and a Baseball game night (courtesy of Bodegoes restaurant). I thought the setup was brilliant – save on food and a ball game by making them into an outing.

When we walked up to the box office, we saw names on the sidewalk. I was surprised to recognize a handful of names. Then I spied this adorable little bit.

tiles at ball park

My brother plans to change his name to Jeff W and find a girl named Sarah K. “They’ve laid the groundwork for a great proposal already,” he said (pun unintended, but subconsciously clever).

When I traded in my passes for a ticket to Section A, I thought, “A is good, right? Like in school, if you do well, you get an A.”

Contrary to my elementary-school-level logic, section A was on the far end, on the Goldeye’s side. I would have done better in Section F.

We discovered that Bodegoes is on the opposite end of the park, so we made our way through the masses (there were actually way more people there than I’d expected) to go order our food.

We spent the beginning of the game in line (Bodegoes is quite popular at games, it seems), but it was well worth it once we got our food. If you have never tried their Coconut Chicken Green Curry, you are missing out.

Bodegoes lineup

The game itself was wonderful. I had long ago forgotten the rules of baseball, and even now I don’t really get what an “error” is. But I followed along well enough to appreciate the skill of our Goldeyes.

A better game couldn’t have been scripted in a movie. We were behind for the majority of the game, having lost three runs to the Explorers in the first inning. But in the final inning, the Goldeyes tied it up, then proceeded to win in a dramatic flourish at the end. I left feeling satisfied.

We found that we preferred watching the game standing closer to the home plate. Not only were we sheltered from the harsh wind, but we could see the players in crisper detail.

pitcher dance

Our pitcher has a lovely attitude derriere.

I learned last night that baseball isn’t the humdrum I thought it would be. My brother rightly described it as “bursts of athleticism”. The waiting for play to begin is totally worth it when things pan out. I am sure I will be going back for more (Goldeyes AND Bodegoes) this summer.

Buffet days

August 7, 2013

Just when I thought Culinary Exchange couldn’t surprise me anymore, there popped up yesterday a BUFFET. My jaw dropped when I saw it. It was beautiful. The students (and teachers, too) were really proud of their work, and rightly so.

Buffet pride

That there were three or four bun offerings was impressive enough (with multiple butters, I am not joking). There were three salads, meatloaves (yes, more than one kind), pork, chicken, curry, rice, noodles made to order…

I was a little skeptical as I walked down the line. Could I eat a true vegetarian meal here? After collecting piles of food on my plate, I determined that I absolutely could, with extra food to spare.

Vegetarian buffet meal

The roasted vegetables was a nice touch. I enjoyed being able to choose my own portion sizes.

My favourite element was the chickpea curry. It’s always the chickpea curry. Cul Ex did a great job making it just coconutty enough to be delicious, but not overpowering. It was still savoury, not sweet. I hope they serve it again in the future.

And then we discovered the dessert bar. I inhaled it all (and felt a little too full afterward) but paused just long enough to appreciate the lovely flavours in their nanaimo bar, fruit, cake, and cheese. [PHOTOS TO COME]

[Note to anyone interested: the buffet will be served every day (or was it just Tuesday to Friday?) until the end of August, and you should know that you are only allowed one time through the buffet line]

I stared at a certain orange something on my plate for a while, not sure if I should eat it. When I broke it apart, it was tangy and sweet (mostly tangy). I discovered that I’d just tried my first gooseberry. Hooray for new experiences!

Speaking of new… I realized partway through my (handmade) ice cream that there are no ice cream places in the Exchange. You can get ice cream as a dessert at a few restaurants (probably places like Boon or Blufish) or you can go to the convenience store on the other side of Main Steet.

You could always get your ice cream at Giant Tiger.

But why are there no ice cream shops? In Osborne Village, it’s fairly easy to find ice cream to go, and of course Little Italy is the best place to grab a gelati.

So, eating ice cream in the Exchange was kind of a new experience for me. It also makes me wonder if I should set up a little pop-up shop for the lunch crowd… Anyone willing to invest in a small business? 😉

[I should mention here that I just tried the coconut milk soft serve at Boon, and I was blown away.]

[Their food often blows me away.]

[I swoon for Boon]

Boon swoon

Boon Burger. They have soft serve, non-dairy, extra awesome.

Security to the rescue

August 5, 2013

This building has the best security guards ever.

My boyfriend has spent some time here, so the guards have gotten to know us pretty well.

We were hanging out in my room on Saturday, when one of the guards we see on a regular basis came knocking on my door. He had run up to tell us that Rylaan’s car was being towed from in front of the building.

Rylaan ran down to find a parking dude in front of his car. There was no tow truck, but there was a $30 ticket on his windshield. The Man gave him a lecture about parking for longer than the 2 hour limit, and then he was off to find another victim.

Not only were we surprised that our security had taken the time to try to save our car, but we were also surprised that he knew what Rylaan’s car looked like. These guys are super attentive, and every day they impress me with their positivity.

I think that in the future, I will profile some of our dedicated security personnel, so you can all learn what makes them the coolest in town.

Rylaan’s car was very important to us today, when we ventured out to IKEA.

Winnipeg received its IKEA in the fall last year – a mark of our success, perhaps. The initial rush of people to the store was daunting, so I decided to wait a few months before I went for a visit. But then life got busy…

I spoke on my professional blog about how much work I got out of Fringe. The experience of finding so many enthusiastic clients has made me realize how important it is to have a central place to work that is relevant to my field. In other words, I am looking for office space in the Exchange.

My search led me to a few possibilities, like this one. Many of the opportunities were tempting…

But then I remembered PO-MO Inc.

An instant message to Meghan Athavale of PO-MO Inc was all that was necessary to secure a corner of an office for an unbeatable fee. Meghan is a golden-hearted individual whose work spans software development to party visuals. My videos helped launch her business a couple of years ago, so she is happy to take me in.

I’ll be moving into their space very soon. But first, I need a desk. Not just that – I need a specific kind of desk from IKEA, one that matches PO-MO’s decor.

Since the city was pretty dead due to the holiday, today was a perfect day to drive to IKEA and grab the desk I need. It just barely fit into Rylaan’s car, but we made it into the PO-MO office in one piece.

I’m almost ready for my new workplace in the Exchange!

First Fridays in the Exchange

August 3, 2013

First Fridays (FF, not to be confused with #FF or “Follow Friday“) is a monthly event (on the first Friday of the month) in the Exchange district in which many organizations and galleries open their doors to the public.

Often, there is way cool stuff happening. And often, I’m too busy to attend any events. Yesterday, though, I was lucky enough to have some time to explore.

Ace Art Inc Saves Nine

aceartinc’s exhibition opening

In the past, my travels have led me down to see Sue Gordon‘s encaustic works, numerous galleries like Gurevich Fine Art, and visit places like the PO-MO office and Skullspace. There are so many galleries in the Exchange that you can turn a corner and walk into one with ease.

This time, I decided to follow my friend Lindsey to her desired destination – RAW gallery, where they had an exhibition of architectural toys from the 70s. Unfortunately, we arrived too late (I’d spent the day in the US, which took longer than expected). We ventured next door to AceArt instead.

Saves Nine, a collection of craft work, was opening at aceartinc. The benefits of going to an opening are numerous. You usually get to meet and chat with the artists, and also, there is free food and drink.

There is a very wide variety of work you can encounter at a gallery, and First Fridays is working toward creating a better public understanding of art. There is a very cool-sounding initiative by Sarah Swan on the FF website.

Sarah recognized that the majority of people at art exhibitions were artists themselves, and is striving to bring non-artists into these seemingly niche spaces. Her lectures include topics such as “I don’t get it – why art is so hard to understand, and practical steps to help you approach any work of art.” and ““Weird” Art – Performance and Installation art clearly explained!”.

I love this idea, because I think that there are so many people who are scared to go to a gallery for fear that they won’t “get it”. Understanding and appreciating art in our contemporary world can be challenging, but it is also a rewarding skill to have. Not only is your mind opened to the possibilities of what can be an effective (thought-provoking or awe-inspiring, perhaps?) work of art, it allows you to properly explain to others exactly why you like or dislike something.

Just as connoisseurs of wine taste many glasses of it before they can really pin down the subtle flavors they enjoy, so can we all peruse gallery after gallery on the first Friday night of each month to discover just what exactly draws us to certain works of art.