American Magazine Recognizes “Prairie Renaissance”

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It's easy to take for granted the sheer amount of musical talent flowing out of our provincial borders. Manitobans are used to it, used to the names, the artists, the festivals, the venues, the record labels. There are too many to name and almost too many to hear. But being from here, it's easy to forget until someone or something from outside our borders reminds us. Utne Magazine in Minneapolis did just that with a recent article by Jill Wilson on the "Prairie Renaissance."

Founded in 1984 by Eric Utne, Utne Magazine reprints the best articles from over 2,000 alternative media sources bringing readers the latest ideas and trends. With provocative writing from diverse perspectives, the magazine provides insightful and alternative analysis of art and media. Utne had been planning a special issue on arts and culture and senior editor Jon Spayde, who is a big fan of the Winnipeg arts scene, asked Wilson to compose an article about it. Wilson was an obvious choice. As the former music writer for The Winnipeg Sun, longtime CKUW Campus/Community Radio DJ (with cohost Barb Stewart on DeDaumier Smith's Blue Period, weekly on Thursdays from 6-8pm), MARIA newsletter contributer and current Copy Editor and Staff Writer for Uptown Magazine, Wilson has extensive knowledge of what Manitoba has to offer and was more than happy to share that knowledge with the American magazine and its readership.

"[Winnipeg is] one of the hotbeds of creativity in North America, but one that is criminally overlooked because it seems small or provincial or remote," says Wilson, amidst the bustle of production at Winnipeg's entertainment weekly. "Per capita, however, I think it's pretty clear that Winnipeg is producing a disproportionate number of artists in every artistic field who are winning international attention, and we're doing it out of what some would see as an unlikely location. That was the gist of what Utne wanted to examine. I relished the opportunity to introduce an international audience to all the cool things about Winnipeg. I also admire Utne, because it's not some bland, consumer-oriented rag. It approaches art and music from a standpoint that includes politics, emotion, meaning and long-term resonance rather than relying on trends or fashions or SoundScan numbers."

When approaching an article such as this, which is meant to encompass not only the incredible music scene but the film and visual arts scene as well, Wilson had to tap into exactly what about the city and its community inspired her.

"On my list of the top 10 albums of 2002 [for Uptown ] were two Winnipeg acts, Greg MacPherson and Christine Fellows, and they aren't there just to pad out the list with local content. I think Winnipeg musicians are making some of the most beautiful, meaningful work around. I also like the way the music scene overlaps with the arts scene and the political arena - so many musicians here are also outspoken politically and branch out into other kinds of art. I also think a lot of local musicians have a great sense of place in their music - they sound like Prairie folk, and I can relate to that."

Manitobans know what's going on within these boundaries. We have the fortune to be able to go to the West End Cultural Centre, the Pyramid or the Albert on any given night and catch amazing sets by diverse acts likes Nathan, Fellows, the Weakerthans, MacPherson, Mood Ruff, Loco, Propaghandi, the Wyrd Sisters, the Duhks, Duotang or the Wailin' Jennys. Manitoba has produced internationally-acclaimed musicians such as Chantal Kreviazuk, Doc Walker, Remy Shand and - of course - the Guess Who. We have the Winnipeg Folk Festival, send + receive festival, New Music Festival, Jazz Winnipeg Festival and two city-wide campus/community radio stations. That only scratches the surface of the stunning and supportive local scene, so it should be no surprise that many artists choose to stay here rather than wander off to larger markets like Toronto or Vancouver.

Those larger markets, however, are taking notice of what Manitoba has to offer. The Ottawa Sun followed Wilson's piece with its own article, interviewing Keri McTighe of Nathan about the Manitoba scene. CBC radio hosted a show from Winnipeg where Wilson's piece was referenced on December 12th.

"Someone e-mailed me the other day saying that their friends from California wanted to come visit Winnipeg because it sounded so interesting," says Wilson. "I didn't really write it from a Chamber of Commerce tourism kind of stance, but I imagine that people who read it - and Utne does cater to a fairly specific audience - might want to seek out some of the bands, artists or events that I mentioned. At least, I hope they will."

People can find out more about Utne Magazine and get a copy of Wilson's article by visiting

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