Jeff Melanson, Manitoba Is Canada’s Newest Cultural Hotspot

When people around the world think of Canada, there are a number of images and places that come to mind. From the Rocky Mountains in the west to the lighthouses of the Maritimes to the majestic expansiveness of the North to the big skies of the Prairies, Canada is full of iconic imagery.

While most people may think of our larger cities, when the topic of Canada arises, one lesser celebrated city, and province for that matter, is making a significant impact with their diverse arts and cultural community.

Winnipeg, and its home province of Manitoba, may not be the first Canadian destination that pops up when people are booking vacations to the Great White North. However, some recent attention from an international fashion magazine, the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and an enhanced effort to showcase the province’s unique cultural character is beginning to turn people’s attention to this wonderful city.

In a November article published by American lifestyle magazine Vogue, Winnipeg was listed as a trendy travel destination. The magazine cited the city as a location that is, “stealthily gathering cred among those in the know,” making it “an absolute must-visit destination.” Manitoba’s capital, Winnipeg, has a long and successful history of placing the Prairie creative mindset on the Canadian arts and culture scene for a number of years. Despite the province having a rich indigenous history and presence, as well as large diverse creative community, the province too often seems overshadowed by its larger neighbour to the east (Ontario).

However, thanks to a large investment in arts initiatives by the government, the province has begun to garner national and international attention for its quaint charm, vibrant culture and its central location.

The shift toward Winnipeg being an international destination was enhanced almost a decade ago, when the city opened the doors to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in 2008. The museum, which has received critical acclaim from international news outlets including The New York Times, showcased the new Manitoba’s emergence onto the world stage.

“The first national museum built outside Ottawa, the Canadian capital, the structure is an architectural tour de force, a hulking edifice of limestone and glass, designed to resemble a cloud wrapped around a mountain and topped by a gleaming spire said to symbolize hope,” wrote Dan Levin.

Today, arts and culture activities like the national museum generate $1.7 billion in economic spinoffs for the province and employ thousands of residents – those are powerful numbers and a testament to the economic significance of cultural initiatives and programs.

“Its growth continues to outpace the economy as a whole,” said Manitoba’s Culture Minister Rochelle Squires.

Over the next five years, the Manitoba government is looking into largely investing in the growing cultural community, with a proposed $10 million earmarked for the Manitoba Museum and another $15 million tentatively dedicated to the Winnipeg Art Gallery Inuit Art Centre.

As an ex-pat Winnipegger, I am proud to see this fabulous city coming into its own.