On the first Friday of every month, Winnipeg’s Exchange District comes alive as galleries, restaurants, and boutiques open their doors after-hours to welcome art and culture lovers. In December, I left the comfort of my warm couch to venture out for the last First Fridays of 2018.
I met up with a friend at 7 pm and started my night with a warm beverage and a snack at the Amsterdam Tea Room (211 Bannatyne Avenue). Their recently-launched new menu had popped up in several of my friends’ Instagram stories, and I was eager to try it myself. The last time I’d been there, it was a quaint little tea room; it’s since transformed into a busy, hip tea bar. We grabbed seats at the bar and I ordered a hot toddy and a small plate with crispy fingerling potatoes, charred onion, cucumber, celery, ketchup aioli, mustard seeds, sesame, and pecorino cheese. The server told me that if I took a little bit of all the components of the dish in one big bite, it would taste like a Big Mac—yum!
Live music from Derek McCandless gave us a “Folk Fix” to get the evening started while we enjoyed our drinks. The bar was buzzing with people, the chatter blending seamlessly into his soothing voice and guitar notes. We made a game plan and left with our bellies full, ready to take on the night.
Our next stop was at Graffiti Gallery (109 Higgins Avenue) for the opening reception of WOMAN GOOD BAD BAD: a series of all-new work by Winnipeg artist Gabrielle Funk. The gallery floor was deliciously pink, and I fell in love instantly. Abstract pastel graphics on the walls seemed to blend in with the artwork. I later learned that the gallery is modified before every exhibition to match the artwork and create a cohesive experience.
People milled about the gallery with wine glasses and kombucha bottles, bobbing their heads to music from the DJ in the corner. There were free appetizers and a cash bar, and the artwork itself was beautiful. Most of the paintings were based on friends and family members of the artist, and the faces look extremely realistic yet surreal. Through this show, Funk explores the duality of the conventional representation of women in religion, art, and the media.
We moved on to something lighter, heading over to Tara Davis Studio Boutique next. It’s an eclectic and charming boutique at 246 McDermot Avenue, carrying womenswear, art, accessories, and home décor. The exhibit was called “12”—the 7th annual exhibition of 12 local artists showing 12 small works no larger than 12×12”. One of the collections that caught my attention was by Joshua Wilson, an artist who paints quirky pictures of animals with cigarettes. I really wanted to take home a painting of a crab with a cigarette, but I settled for a pair of mismatched purple socks with cacti on them.
My friend and I parted ways, and I walked over to Cinematheque (304-100 Arthur Street) for my last stop of the night: a screening of SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, presented by Black Space Winnipeg. I was a little wary of going to this with just my popcorn for company, but in Winnipeg, six degrees of separation is a very real thing. I ran into friends from work and someone I went to school with, so I joined them for the movie.
Cinematheque is one of those old-school movie theaters that brings back the romance of movie watching. The architecture of the ArtSpace building is stunning and the theatres are small and intimate. Before heading into the showing, I stopped at the bar for a glass of wine to go with my popcorn.
The movie started a little late, but no one seemed to mind. Written and directed by Boots Riley and starring Lakeith Stanfield, Sorry to Bother You is a dystopian comedy that addresses societal issues like racism and commercialism. (The ending will leave you feeling unsettled in the best way possible.) It’s both thoughtful and hilarious, with tremendous actors.
It was almost midnight by the time the movie ended. Over at The Tallest Poppy (103 Sherbrook Street), Synonym’s First Friday After Party would be just starting to heat up. But after a full evening of soaking up culture and art, I was ready to head back home.
By midnight, I had only managed to fit in four of the 36 great events happening that night. I hope to go back this week to catch some of the venues I missed. To stay up to date on all the amazing things happening on First Fridays in the Exchange, check out their website firstfridayswinnipeg.org a few days before the monthly event.