Category Archives: featured

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

The boldest idea of all: The Canadian Museum for Human Rights

By Dorothy Dobbie

The voice on the other end of the line was agitated and concerned. The caller wanted to know if I had read the November issue of The Walrus.
I hadn’t – the magazine is a little too pretentious for me, claiming as it does that it is “Fearless. Witty. Thoughtful. Canadian.” Especially because it is not that “Canadian,” unless we describe Canada as Toronto.
“You must read it,” he told me, “and write something to refute it. The Walrus writer is so negative about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.”
He said that the article bad-mouthed everything from the architecture to the concept to the funding, and from what he said, it did it in a particularly supercilious and dismissive way.
I am not surprised.
One of Winnipeg’s boldest ideas yet is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It’s so bold and new that it is setting the Canadian (read: Toronto) media into a frenzy of confusion and self-doubt, fueled, perhaps, by simple jealousy.
It seems the writers don’t understand the unusual architecture so they don’t have the language to deal with it. Uncomfortable and wordless, they rely on well-oiled phrases to describe this indescribable building, and since there is nothing like it, they end up with negative phrases.
This is the same group that goes “oooh” and “ahhh” when they see a blank canvas and are told it means something by some over-touted art critic.
So don’t let it get you down, folks.
Like all art, architecture is a matter of subjective opinion. You are going to love it or hate it. I love it; to me, it looks like a prairie campfire and fits beautifully on the banks of the Red River. One thing I know for sure, the museum will now replace its neighbouring bridge as an iconic symbol for Winnipeg.
The building is bold and beautiful, stunning in conception, design and construction. As one architect from Victoria told me last week, “You Winnipeggers should be very proud of your trades community – that is a very complex building and its construction has been very well-executed.” He sees a lot of work coming our way because of it.
Another mantra of the eastern media is that “taxpayers’ money” could be better spent. I don’t know how, in view of the incredible job done by Gail Asper in raising almost $150 million to complete the job (the federal government put up just $100 million, with the province and the city anteing up the rest).
And remember that this is the first national museum ever to be funded with any private donations. It is also the first national museum ever to be located outside of Ottawa, which like the virology lab being here, is a thorn in the side of the over-privileged Ontarians.
Much has been written about the museum’s offices being exposed to the public as well as occupying the glass side of the interior. I am told by the people who work there that this is a most inspiring place to work.
CEO Stuart Murray says every day is a different discovery in how the light strikes the building; how the rain looks when it falls, what happens to snow.
Does this matter? Yes, it does; this is a museum of ideas, not artifacts. Inspiration will be key to its success in moving the human rights agenda ahead, because one thing the critics are correct about – telling the human story is complex and fraught with emotion, confusion and insecurities.
That is okay. The controversy over whose story should be told and its hierarchy is a natural part of the human journey toward understanding, acceptance and peace. Every human right has been hard-won amidst debate and disagreement, sometimes even bloodshed. Why would the telling of these stories be any different?
So the uncertainty about content is understandable and it can be expected to continue. To Winnipeggers who feel a little brutalized by the eastern media, I say let it go. Laugh off their resentments. Get behind the museum and help it get on with the job of bringing ideas to light and giving permission to speak of the unspoken.
Over time, the museum will mellow and the interior will warm up with the heat of hope and optimism. There will be more stories presented in novel ways.
There will also be tangible galleries to satisfy, for those who need to, the experience of being near an actual artifact that speaks to their past.
As time goes on, those who feel most concerned about their story being told will see that it does have a place on the agenda, perhaps not just once but many times over the years as we learn from the past how to shape a better future.
This is a museum, a gallery if you will, about moving from darkness to light, just as architect Antoine Predock presented as a physical entity with his building design.
We are still in the stages of darkness, but never doubt that we will rise toward the light.
To put it in terms that The Walrus might understand, this museum is about “Concepts. Ideas. Hope. Canada.”
It is also about the boldness of Winnipeg, which should feel buoyed up by the jealous arrows sent our way by media whose thinking is stuck in the past.


Hunter & Gunn harkens back to simpler ways

By Brenlee Coates

No one’s sure what came first – the un-ironic appreciation for the moustache or the sudden lustre of barber shops of decades past, but one thing’s for sure: Hunter & Gunn brought the old-school coiffure back in Winnipeg.
And now, the only major change in business as usual when Movember rolls around is a sudden surge in moustache wax sales.
Usually, the prominent West Broadway barbers are also called upon to do “quick shaves” for the local celebrity participants in the annual fundraiser, but donating their time is also not out of the ordinary for the team.
One dollar from all services and products sold at Hunter & Gunn goes straight back into the community – and the staff is expected to do at least one hour of volunteer work a week. “Everyone does more than that I think,” says owner, Jeremy Regan.
“I’m really, really proud of my staff… for jumping on board with the volunteering.”
In the last two years, Hunter & Gunn has raised $30,000 for Graffiti Art Programming Inc. and The Ladybug Foundation.
This year’s beneficiary, Resource Assistance for Youth, Inc., is on track to receive another generous donation from its neighbourhood barber shop.
Regan has found a formula that works for his business that’s financially viable; he’s able to support his family, give back to the community and help his staff make a good living, while charging relatively low prices for services.
This was all part of his vision when he decided to embark on his own.
After working in pretty much every capacity of the hair industry for over a decade, he left a cozy job at a reputed salon to do things a little differently.
“Basically, I was charging around double what I do now,” says Regan. At Hunter & Gunn, “we’re starting around the Ultracuts and Super Clips (price point).”
Regan explained the formula for hairdressers is typically to raise prices periodically, during which time they lose about 10 to 15 per cent of their clientele.
He wanted to reject this formula, and open a barber shop that wouldn’t cause him to lose any clients. “It’s a barber shop for men, women and children,” says Regan. “I had a very big female clientele that I wanted to keep… Why cut off any market?”
On any given day, Regan says you can see the diversity of the clientele popping in and out of the doors at the 567 Broadway establishment – university students, businessmen and women, the LGBTTQ community, and everything in between.
People expect to see hipsters with fades and immaculate moustaches whipping through the three chairs, but it’s just as likely to be three women getting cuts and colours, says Regan.
Hunter & Gunn does feature some of the usual hipster bait – nostalgic record player, foosball hockey table, mid-century furniture and gourmet coffee, but the barber shop is inviting to most admirers of the throwback institutions, especially with its superior delivery of hot shaves and fades. And they have a tantalizing spread of fashion and culture magazines laid out among the leather couches waiting to be devoured.

The foosball table at Hunter & Gunn.
The foosball table at Hunter & Gunn.

Though they serve a no-fuss no-muss, time-slotted haircut, it’s easy to imagine time drifting by while lingering in the seating area, watching the TV that’s perpetually on at the shop, and enjoying the tunes on vinyl.
Maybe the best part of the Hunter & Gunn experience, besides the comforting sight of the red, white and blue striped relic and jumbled art on the walls reminiscent of a simpler time, is the return to barber shop conversation.
All those topics that are supposed to be off the docket are readily encouraged.
“It’s a place where you talk about sex, religion and politics,” says Regan.

Reebok by Beverley Goodwin

Advertisers are on an everlasting “cool” hunt

Socially Smart - Jon Waldman
Socially Smart – Jon Waldman

Photo by Beverley Goodwin

Back when I was in journalism school, I was exposed to one of the premier articles of my generation – “The Coolhunt,” written by Malcolm Gladwell in 1997 (he of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference fame).
The article followed two designated “coolhunters” – those being a company exec from Reebok and an advertising guru – as they boldly looked at trends and tried to revive the company’s position amid a bust period following its boom in the ‘80s. (Suffice to say their echo today is pretty damn good, especially after a re-branding to RBK.)
The interesting line of the article to me was this: “Coolhunting is not about the articulation of a coherent philosophy of cool. It’s just a collection of spontaneous observations and predictions that differ from one moment to the next and from one coolhunter to the next.”
In the advertising/marketing world, this is a never-ending game of building a better mousetrap. It involves media buys and web content creation that is savvy to Google’s standards, proper positioning in traditional models like the Yellow Pages, and embracing social media.
And as many mousetraps as we build, there’s always a younger demo that seems to be ahead of the curve.
The rocky road of Facebook is a prime example of this. For years, any Gen Yer (myself included) loved the platform – it became part of our daily routine alongside brushing our teeth (and sometimes you’d do it simultaneously).
What has happened more recently though is that Facebook has lost its market share in the social sphere. Witness an article from The Washington Post published in early October. The article cited a Piper Jaffray study – one of the more extensive I’ve seen to date – which found that of the 7,200 U.S. students surveyed (with the average age of 16), only 45 per cent used the social media giant.
Yep, less than half.
The coolhunt continued on in the study, when the iWatch was tested in the same group. Only 17 per cent expressed interest in buying the device. This from a generation who in the same study had a 67 per cent rate of iPhone ownership (and more said their next phone would be an Apple product as well).
Studying the way that millennials act, walk, talk and buy is only going to get more interesting for businesses as that demographic gets closer and closer to full-out employment and consumerism. Spending dollars on unfamiliar media will take on a new challenge for companies as they target the emerging generation.
Thus, the coolhunt continues, and there are new and innovative ways to look at these demos. Continue reading


Living in the now – even with long-term goals on the horizon

Twist Me Toned - Tannis Miller
Twist Me Toned – Tannis Miller

So much of the time (and I haven’t decided if it’s something that’s ingrained in us as humans, or an awful trait we’ve acquired), we are so adherent to focusing on what’s to come, we forget to revel in the moment.
In today’s world, I can’t help but notice all these sweet gems life has to offer go uncherished as our narrow focus gravitates toward to-do lists, synced calendars, and a plethora of looming tasks.
When did stopping to smell the roses become a mere poetic cliché? Has modern life truly become so unruly that we need exotic vacations booked to keep us hanging on, or have we simply forgotten how to soak up the “now”?
Twist Me Toned is about lifestyle in every sense of word, but in this case I want to really zero in on how fitness aspirations are completely relevant to savouring the moment. In terms of importance, long-term goals are of course at the top of the list, but we mustn’t forget how important each day in our lives is.
It is so easy to focus on the fact you want to lose 20 lb. that it can almost be impossible to do when you’ve set your sights on it and it’s all you’re looking at. In order to hit the big winnings, you have to slowly earn those nickels and dimes. I’m talking about focusing on the positives in your daily life and trying just a little bit harder to enjoy every step of the way.
Don’t wish your life away and fantasize about where you will be in three months or a year. Enjoy the now. Enjoy each workout and the feelings they bring you throughout, and when you’re finished. Enjoy your time with friends on your downtime and the support they give you for what’s challenging you.
Enjoy your meals and cook with pizazz! Look up new recipes, try new foods and spices; get creative with your inner chef! And maybe even most importantly of all, depending on how you look at it, enjoy your rest days and notice those small results.
These are all of your rewards – not just the big one. I challenge you to live just a little bit longer in the present moment, and stop yourself when you start to wish your days would pass you by just so you can be a little closer to something you think would be better.
Seek to see more of the fun in things and love what you do, because if you enjoy the process, the results will come anyway.

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