Arts & Culture - Spring / Summer
Winnipeg is known as “the cultural cradle of Canada,” so no matter what time of year you visit we guarantee your artistic appetite will be well fed.
For starters, nothing seems to ring in the warm air like the new season at Rainbow Stage, Winnipeg’s historic, visually stunning open-air theatre in Kildonan Park. This year’s line-up of musicals is looking particularly noteworthy, with the Man in Black being honoured from June 23-July 15 with Cash: Ring of Fire, while from August 11-August 31 the whole family will laugh and sing along with everyone’s favourite ogre at Shrek: The Musical.
During the summer, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) takes their sweet sounds out of the Centennial Concert Hall to open-air venues like Assiniboine Park’s Lyric Theatre and The Forks’ Scotiabank Stage. On Canada Day in particular the outdoor Scotiabank Stage always showcases an incredibly diverse concert, the culmination of which often sees the WSO playing along with noteworthy local bands (past symphonic collaborations have included hip-hop act The Lytics, and alternative band Royal Canoe).
For more sweet sounds in the great outdoors the Lyric Theatre at Assiniboine Park provides an ideal setting for the whole family (or a special date) to set up a picnic blanket from which to sit and watch the likes of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB), the aforementioned WSO and great touring acts. They also play movies throughout summer in an experience that is always magical.
Now this being Winnipeg – a city with arguably more live music per capita than any other Canadian city – there will always be other forms of live music to be had at smaller venues across the city. Downtown a local favourite is the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club, whose tiny honky-tonk room on Main Street has seen some of the best acts in North America, while The West End Cultural Centre has always been a vocal supporter of the arts. Newer fun places include The Good Will Social Club, which seriously features live music (or some kind of happening) every night. (For a complete listing of shows in the city check out this Live Music Calendar from our friends at Manitoba Music.)
Music festival fans are also in their element in Winnipeg during summer. The big daddy event of them all is the Winnipeg Folk Festival (July 7-10) an annual event held at Bird’s Hill Park filled with culture, song, dance, and artisans (the Folk Fest peeps also put on monthly concerts around the city #hearallyear). This year’s FF headliners include Ryan Adams, Milky Chance, and Basia Bulat. The other big guitar-centric festival is the Interstellar Rodeo, a now-annual thee-day festival at The Forks (August 12-14) where you can go rock out to big names like Wilco, Serena Ryder, and more. Finally, on the outdoor concert front there is the TD International Jazz Fest (June 16-26), which sees multiple lively free shows at The Cube stage in The Exchange District, along with primetime shows at venues throughout the city.
For Winnipeg theatregoers the marquee summer event is the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, which pretty much turns the whole Exchange District into one massive performance piece from July 13/-24. More than 180 companies from across Canada and around the globe will be bringing their plays to venues around the theatre district, while outside, centred around Old Market Square, you can catch live music, street performers and other out-there forms of entertainment everyday from noon to midnight.
A uniquely Winnipeg theatre experience is Shakespeare in the Ruins, which sees the St. Norbert Ruins – a completely outdoor venue – serve as the stage. This summer from June 1 to June 25 they’ll be performing Richard III.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery is always a wise choice in the summertime, especially when your visit culminates with a glass of wine and a stroll through their rooftop patio that overlooks downtown. One special exhibit they have this summer is Chagall (May 28-August 28, 2016), which contains 42 lithograph prints from Russian-born Marc Chagall.
Throughout The Exchange District and downtown several other galleries of note should also be on your agenda. This includes Urban Shaman – an Aboriginal artist-run centre that specializes in contemporary aboriginal art; Wah-sa Gallery at The Forks –which features more traditional forms of Aboriginal art in mediums including paint and sculpture; and Gurevich Fine Art, cre8ery and Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art – which feature everything from video installations to works from up-and-coming and internationally acclaimed artists.
An incredible one-of-a-kind festival that needs to be on your Winnipeg summer agenda is Manito Ahbee (May 18-22), which celebrates indigenous heritage and culture with events that educate, unify, and above all, inspire. It all begins with the lighting of the sacred fire at the Oodena Circle at The Forks (May 18), a ceremony guided by elders where offerings of tobacco are made accompanied with music and dance. The other big public event at Manito Ahbee is the International Pow Wow (May 21-22) at the RBC Convention Centre, where over 800 dancers will compete in numerous categories in what is Canada’s largest (and North America’s second largest) Pow Wow. The drumming and singing, from North America’s best Indigenous drum groups, is incredibly powerful and surely something you will not forget.
Another authentic Indigenous event in Winnipeg is Aboriginal Day Live (June 25), an annual celebration put on by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network at The Forks. This year marks the 10-year anniversary where live bands, food vendors, a Pow Wow, artisans, and fireworks showcase Canada’s Indigenous communities.
Finally, because Winnipeggers love a bargain – so you tourists will fit right in when you find one too – you can pick yourself up a Winnipeg Culture Pass. The pass gets you to two shows and two exhibits – that’s four things – for only $89 (a savings of over $60). For concerts and shows you get your pick from The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and Manitoba Opera, while for exhibits you can choose from The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, The Manitoba Museum, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.