Windsor a market "we can count on" for Asian films, Cineplex booker says Nov 23 2021

You’ve heard of Bollywood. Now there’s Pollywood – the world of Punjabi cinema - and playing at Cineplex’s Silver City cinemas. In fact, Punjabi films have been screening there for several years as part of the theatre chain’s expanding showcase of Asian films. Besides Punjabi there are of course Bollywood, or Hindi language films, as well as Chinese movies. Why has Windsor been selected to screen such a wide variety of films from Asia? “In a lot of Canada it comes down to just regional immigration,” Robert Cousins, Cineplex’s VP of Film Buying, says. “Hindi for years has been the main language of our South Asian business. But Punjabi in Canada is the predominant other language.” Originally, South Asian films booked in Windsor came from US distributors whose advertising in Detroit “was bleeding over into Windsor and who said, ‘why don’t we take a date in Windsor.’” Attendance in the succeeding years “has been good,” Cousins adds. “Windsor has been one of those markets that we can count on when we open up a big film.” In terms of general attendance Asian films, like those of Hollywood, vary in appeal “title by title,” he says. “Big titles do extremely well.” The market is “very star-driven” and themes are important. “For the longest time we used to do extremely well with romances, and then there were more action movies,” Cousins says. Films just don’t last a week. “We treat our South Asian business like we treat out Hollywood business, as long as the public comes to watch it, it plays.” And the films can be watched by the non-Asian community since they all come with English sub-titles. In fact, some non-Asians have discovered this cinema. “They went to one and they realize these are full blown productions,” Cousins says. As well, there are movie styles “that we in North America don’t do anymore.” Melodrama, for instance. “Whether they be Chinese or Indian or other markets heightened emotion – heightened melodrama – is still a big part of the market.” In Windsor Silver City is exclusively the place to watch Asian films. “You want to make sure you can park the films in that theatre” so the audience realizes that’s the place to go to see them. 

Recent titles have been romantic comedies Paani Ch Madhaani and Honsla Rakh. And coming this week Warning and Antim: The Final Truth.

Drag queens will kick off Chrysler Theatre season with a bling bang October 14 2021

In what might be a Windsor first, at least on a large scale, the Chrysler Theatre will be bringing in a drag queen show some time in November. Theatre manager Veronica Mancini says she can’t disclose the name just yet until details are finalized. But the show will provide a bang to the re-launch of Chrysler programming after the pandemic put programming on ice for the past 19 months. In fact, the theatre had a soft opening of sorts last week with the first of three family fare movies, The Goonies. Almost 100 attended. Ironically, that was the same day the province announced theatres could resume full capacity with masking and vax certificates. Mancini said the Chrysler has 1100 seats. This was the theatre’s “slow opening,” she said. “The reason we decided to start with the Friday night movies was because of the capacity limits.” She couldn’t make money on more expensive shows with limited capacities. Upcoming Friday night movies include The Princess Bride, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory and Beetlejuice, with more added in November. Mancini said she has a few clients interested in November and December dates “although we don’t have much left for this year.” But in January expect dinner shows featuring the BeeGees tribute and Legends of Motown. “We postponed them so many times,” Mancini says. On Feb. 12 the Original Whalers (Bob Marley’s band) will play the Chrysler and Mancini is hoping for Mini Pop Kids in February. Meanwhile, the St. Clair College musical performance students will be back with their annual Christmas show. “They’re very thrilled that they will have a larger capacity audience to see their wonderful annual show,” Mancini said. 

Photo: Chrysler Theatre

Surround yourself by 'The Kiss' Sept. 22 2021

 Want to be embraced by a kiss? Or The Kiss? That’s the famous art work by Austrian artistic icon Gustav Klimt. A huge “immersive” exhibition of Klimt’s work is coming to Toronto Oct. 21. It follows on the current, Immersive van Gogh, located on Toronto's waterfront at 1 Yonge Street. That’s the Toronto Star’s former printing plant now turned exhibition hall and called Lighthouse Immersive. The wrap around digital exhibit features 500,000 cubic feet of projections, 60,600 frames of video and 90 million pixels on giant screens that surround patrons. Immersive Klimt is created by the very same world-renowned master of digital art, Italy’s Massimiliano Siccardi. Klimt’s striking works are world-renowned for their “colours, shapes and patterns without inhibition or limitation,” the exhibit says. “From the streets of Imperial Vienna to the natural world of water lilies, vibrant blooms and mermaids, to his acclaimed Golden Phase,” exemplified by The Kiss, patrons can literally lose themselves in this massive exhibit.  Klimt painted just before World War I in a collective that “celebrated all the colours and vibrancy of their era, embodying their motto ‘to every age its art and to every art its freedom.’” Besides the much-celebrated The Kiss patrons will see other famed works like The Tree of Life and Flower Garden, among others. “Provocative, sensual and bold, Klimt’s art and subject matter pushed boundaries, exploring the human form in new, expressive ways,” the exhibit says. The oversized exhibition might be just the thing given Klimt’s comment, “Truth is like fire; to tell the truth means to glow and burn.” Lighthouse Immersive was founded in 2019 as the city's first experimental entertainment multiplex, designed to host large scale events of all art forms. 

Photo: Lighthouse Immersive


Film lauds the famed Boblo boats August 24 2021

A new film about the iconic Boblo boats of local lore will debut next month. Boblo Boats: A Detroit Ferry Tale, opens the eighth edition of the Freep Film Festival Sept. 22 at Detroit’s Redford Theatre. The debut documentary by Aaron Schillinger and narrated by famed Motown singer Martha Reeves, follows preservationists’ efforts to keep the more than century old boats alive. The vessels carried hundreds of people each trip form downtown Detroit to Boblo, a decades old amusement park on Boblo Island opposite Amherstburg. The park closed in 1993. The Redford screening will be the film’s world premiere. (There is no indication yet on when the film might screen in Canada.) Freep Film Festival director Steve Byrne told that generations “love to reminisce about Boblo, and this doc will send them right back to the glory days of the beloved island amusement park.” Byrne said that despite the nostalgia the film is “very grounded in the present.” It follows the efforts of a “number of dedicated folks who are trying to save the decaying Boblo steamships from the scrapyard.” The film shows how a New York-based nonprofit is resurrecting the SS Columbia as a traveling museum on the Hudson River. Meanwhile, the SS Ste. Claire, which has deteriorated further and was consumed by fire three years ago, is nevertheless still the object of restoration. And by “an unlikely band of heroes: a doctor, a psychic and an amusement park fanatic.” Said filmmaker Schillinger, “I wanted to pay tribute to those memories while simultaneously peeling back the layers of nostalgia to see what stories or characters might be hiding underneath.” Shot primarily in the Detroit area, the doc features interviews, archival footage and photos and stop-motion animation. This is designed to tell the story of Sarah Elizabeth Ray, an African-American who in 1943 was forbidden to ride the SS Columbia and took her segregation battle to the U.S. Supreme Court.  

Photo: Freep Film Festival

Art show highlights "Bridge Artists" August 10 2021

If you look closely you can see artwork on the towers of the Gordie Howe International Bridge. A construction box where crews pour concrete as the towers rise also has Indigenous art on the outside. Those artists are represented in a collaboration at the Art Gallery of Windsor, opening August 12. The tower art was actually recommended by workers on the bridge. “As part of our community benefits plan we integrated art from Indigenous people into the tower forms,” Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority spokeswoman Heather Grondin said. “People can actually see that art when you’re driving down Sandwich Street or Ojibway Parkway, even from EC Row Expressway. You can see that art already about 15 stories into the air.” There is also US-themed art on the American side tower. “Every side has a different design,” Grondin said. The AGW’s “Bridge Artists” exhibit features drawings (including concept ones for the bridge), paintings and textiles. They are Anishinaabe artists Teresa Altiman and Daisy White of Walpole Island First Nation and Naomi Peters of Caldwell First Nation. One of the artists, Theresa Altiman, told it was difficult to paint on the tower boxes as they were corrugated metal. “You’re trying to do straight lines. It was very difficult to do it on this kind of material,” she said. There is a video showing how the work was done. Altiman has also created art along the Herb Gray Parkway’s multiuse path, The exhibit is one of three as the AGW reopens since being closed during Covid. The others are “Conversations,” a triennial of 16 artists. “They’re trying to create different conversations about things that are happening in our community, culture, in the world,” gallery director Jennifer Matotek said. The third exhibit is works by Sorel Etrog, who has had a special connection to Windsor. His “King and Queen” adorn Windsor’s waterfront. Finally, Catherine Blackburn: New Age Warriors, "contemporary interpretations of traditional forms," rounds out the exhibitions.

Stratford has - mostly - all new line-up after the 2020 season cancellation June 29 2021

When this year’s Stratford season kicks off in July productions for the most part won’t be the same as those scheduled but cancelled last year due to Covid.  “This is an outdoor season with Covid protocols so it is very different from what we could do normally indoors,” spokeswoman Ann Swerdfager said. “Typically, we sell about 7,000 tickets per day when our four theatres are open and each play has as many as 32 people in it, plus a huge backstage crew.” But that isn’t possible as the province, effective tomorrow, moves into Step 2 re-opening with crowd limitations. Consequently, there will be smaller cast sizes - no more than eight performers each play - and smaller crews. “We have a maximum of 600 tickets per day available, three shows a day at each canopy,” Swerdfager said. However, two plays from last year were again able to be produced by virtue of their small scale. One, The Rez Sisters, will be performed at the Tom Patterson canopy. And, said Swerdfager, Three Tall Women, “which we've decided to move later in the season” indoors in the reimagined new Tom Patterson Theatre Centre once the province reaches Step 3 re-opening. The 2021 season altogether features five plays: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, R+J, Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters, Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, Serving Elizabeth by Marcia Johnson, and I Am William, with text by Rébecca Déraspe, music by Chloé Lacasse and Benoit Landry, and English translation by Leanna Brodie. There are also five cabarets. Tickets go on sale July 6 for members and those with cancelled 2020 tickets and July 12 for non-members. In a way the festival returns to its roots. Stratford's first season in 1953 held outdoor performances while the first indoor theatre was being built. And that season also didn’t begin until July. In years since the festival has started in Spring and run through late fall. 

Photo: Michaela Washburn, The Rez Sisters: Stratford Festival, David Cooper

WIFF pop-up weekend film event still possible later this year - Georgie June 11 2021

While the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) has cancelled its regular 10-day event again this fall – for the second year in a row – there still may be films in the pipeline for a sort of “pop-up” mini festival later this year or early next. Director Vincent Georgie said once the film distribution system gets back up and running, after major disruption because of Covid, and matters like health and venue availability are nailed down, programmers may schedule several films over a weekend indoors. “As soon as we sort of think, hey, there’s some sense of normalcy or whatever we’re going to pilot test, yeah, pop up a couple of days with five six movies - and really with only the goal of seeing how people are feeling,” he said. The festival announced this week it was cancelling the 10-day event, Canada’s largest volunteer run film festival and was in its 15th year in 2019. Georgie told this was largely due to films not being available from distributors, even this far in advance of the mid-autumn festival. “Speaking to all of our distributors across Canada they’re all like, we still don’t really have a handle on fall 2021, everything has a question mark on it and we still can’t get into any agreements,” he said. (165 films were booked in 2019.) There was also the question of venues like the Capitol and Chrysler theatres. These facilities themselves are “unsure what their operational plans will be even when it’s legally allowed to go back to sort of normal,” he said. As well, the festival’s “core” audience are retirees, many of whom buy 10-day passes. This is also the same demographic most at risk for Covid-19 and therefore would likely be “most reticent” to attend, said Georgie. Finally, though more countries are seeing their vaccine numbers increase there are still travel restrictions. That makes it almost impossible to fly in filmmakers which is a major festival cachet. “Filmmakers are really reticent to travel if at all,” he said. But don’t despair. WIFF, like every other organization, is monitoring the state of health, vaccinations and eased public gathering rules, and could in fact hold some mini event late this year or during the winter. “Could that happen in November or December – absolutely,” Georgie said.

 (See also front page story “WIFF riverfront drive-in movie theatre expands and becomes an annual tradition”)

Top city arts grant goes to Walter Cassidy's 2SLGBTQIA history project May 25 2021

The City of Windsor’s 2021 first round top arts grant in terms of funding has gone to the  “creation of a document of the 2SLGBTQIA community history in Windsor-Essex.” The ask by artist Walter Cassidy was $4,460 and the city’s arts fund granted $4000. The project is one of 22 that saw funding totalling almost $47,000 in the first round of city funding this year. A second round of an equal amount will also take place. Forty-nine people or organizations applied asking almost $200,000. Maximum grants are $5,000. The next biggest award this round was $3500 to Austin DiPietro and his Bishop Boys pop album of original music. There were a few $2500 grants. One was to Leslie McCurdy and her What I Know Now project for a performance piece on Black history. The other went to Angelina Ebegbuzie from Our Truth, Our Story for a doc on the city’s Afro-Canadian community. Frank Varga received the same amount for a film on “life and community in small towns.” One of the more intriguing projects is Donna Jean Mayne’s The Golden Ear. She got $2000 to prepare a future “sculptural tribute” to legendary CKLW music director Rosalie Trembley. Abridged Opera Co. got $1500 to perform “a live, socially-distanced performance of Mozart’s opera.” And Rachel Pieters received $1500 to paint local drag queens for PRIDE Weekend. Those receiving the awards must be from Windsor and must account for their work. This could be such things as keeping a count of patrons who have seen the work, the number of CDs sold or performances given. 

Photo: City of Windsor

Ottawa Street is home to two more David Derkatz - 'DERKZ' - murals May 13 2021

One of the area’s most prolific graffiti artists and muralists, David Derkatz – “DERKZ” – is just finishing up his latest work, a mainly two-toned depiction of the Prohibition era on the side of an Ottawa Street restaurant. The 50 by 20 ft. painting shows several characters gathered in a speakeasy on the side of the Bourbon Tap & Grill. Derkatz calls the commissioned work “elegant, kind of classy” with black and gray tones. The only other colour will be the golden look of the booze in a whisky glass. The prolific artist hasn’t kept track of the murals he’s painted around the city. “It’s up there though”,  he says, definitely over 50. After he completes the Bourbon Tap’s image, he’ll head down the street to the law office of Legal Focus. There, he’ll paint a smaller colourful mural commissioned by the Ottawa Street BIA. “There will be blues, magentas, oranges, hints of red and greens - it’s a very vibrant mural, very bold,” he said. The images are hands portrayed in different perspectives, showing the give and take of human nature. Usually, Derkatz's murals take a week or two to do depending on weather. “We’ve been getting rained out a lot” lately, he chuckled. Last year Derkatz completed a mammoth mural on the side of the Penalty Box Too restaurant, a tribute to health care workers during the pandemic. Others of his works include one on Maiden Lane downtown – “pink and magenta – an older gentleman is giving a rose to a younger woman.” And another on Pitt St. on the side of Panache restaurant. He has several in Ford City. The images are eclectic, from dreamscapes to figures like a boxer or a girl crowned with flowers. The visual effects are striking, whimsical and bold. He uses industrial bucket paint for backgrounds and spray paints the images. Derkatz was born and raised in Windsor. He started as a graffiti artist. “I kind of gained skill using spray paint through that.” He dropped out of college. “I wanted to figure out how I could paint murals and I was finding myself skipping class and dropping out of college to go door to door and asking for opportunities to paint free murals so I could get my name out there.”

Photo: DERKZ facebook page

For first time, Windsor links with Hamilton for Jewish film festival April 22 2021

In these “interesting times” Windsor’s Jewish film festival is hooking up with Hamilton’s Jewish festival for a joint film event in early May. Richard Kamen of the Windsor Jewish Federation said the festival will be held virtually on one website May 2- 13. Usually the Windsor Jewish festival, which was supposed to celebrate its 18th year last year, is held in the spring at Devonshire Cineplex. But Covid cancelled it last year and the joint virtual festival is taking place this year. Kamen said Hamilton already had a small three-film festival and it was logical to hook up with Windsor’s 10 flick event, as the two Jewish federations had collaborated on other projects. “The films were chosen by Windsor but they were reviewed and approved by Hamilton,” he said. A website at has been created to buy tickets and passes, watch trailers and “unlock” the films for viewing. ( “It’s basically a one stop shop,” Kamen said. There will be 10 films, one released each night at 7 pm except for Friday and Saturday because of the Sabbath. But each film has 48 hours to be unlocked and then another 48 hours to be viewed. “So technically from the moment we release it you technically have 96 hours,” he said. The films have been “critically acclaimed” and shown at many festivals, Kamen said. Among them are Fiddler - A Miracle of Miracles, a doc about the Making of Fiddler on the Roof. Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog, is an endearing drama about a boy separated from his dog by the Nazis only to rediscover the beloved animal in a concentration camp. And Love in Suspenders, a romantic comedy about two septuagenarians who fall in love - will their budding relationship survive the scrutiny of their children?

Local university students to compete in Detroit's documentary film festival March 30 3021

For the first time UWindsor students will have their films shows in Detroit’s preeminent documentary film extravaganza, the Freep Film Festival, this September. The fest has hooked up with several Michigan universities, as well as UWindsor, in the new Real Fresh program to spotlight up and coming filmmakers. Freep executive director Steve Byrne said “we hope to provide a little extra incentive to create their best work."  The eight year old festival specializes in documentary films, often about Detroit and Michigan. Kim Nelson, UWindsor film and media professor (photo), said documentaries can be wide in scope but often focus on local issues. “Documentaries are always about the real world so they just by default tend to be about local issues but they could be about anything,” she said. Some of UWindsor student films have been shown in other festivals like Windsor’s own international film festival (WIFF). As many as 100 students enroll in UWindsor’s film production course in their first year of university though currently there are nine Masters students. It’s grad students who are eligible to enter the Freep event. That’s how UWindsor got hooked up with the Detroit festival. A Michigan filmmaker with whom Nelson has worked put the festival in touch with her. Three to five films (maximum 35 minutes length) will be nominated per university and a festival jury will choose the best works. Nominated films are eligible for prizes. UWindsor has modern film production studios in the converted armouries building home to the School of Creative Arts. Nelson said she ”wouldn’t be surprised” if some entries were also screened later this year at WIFF. The Freep event is sponsored by the Detroit Free Press, whose longtime nickname has been “Freep.” Nelson herself has made several feature length docs screened at international film festivals. 

Photo: UWindsor

Toronto's Union Station history featured in online exhibition February 22 2021

Many Windsorites have travelled to and through Toronto’s iconic Union Station. But how much do we really know about this major landmark that dominates the south end of downtown Toronto, close to Lake Ontario. Until April 12, you can explore online the exhibit Uncovering Union Station, co-produced by the Toronto Railway Museum and University of Toronto Museum Studies department. It examines nine “stories” about the mammoth station that represent epochal events that took place there. The station formally opened in 1927, overseen by Prince Edward of Wales. During World War II the station became a reception area for thousands of “war brides”, women who met and married Canadian soldiers overseas. During the war a mammoth painting above the ticket windows depicted the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in action. There’s a brief history of the Red Caps, the porters who assist passengers with luggage and who dated back to the 1900s and the previous station just west of the current Union. “Red Caps were one of the few railway positions that allowed Black Canadians to work within the Middle Class,” the exhibit says. Union Station architecturally may seem a massive impenetrable building. But during the 1960s its future was in doubt. A plan was to redevelop the entire site as a major new commercial and residential complex including the CN Tower, which might have been the only part of that plan that went ahead. But land ownership issues and opposition from Torontonians saved the day and the edifice was preserved. Plans were then made to renovate and expand the station to cater to the growing Go Transit commuter network. Begun in 2009 the work was supposed to have been completed by 2015 in time for the Pan American Games. Delays continued and work is now scheduled to wrap up this year. But don’t be surprised if the completion date is extended yet again!

Image: Toronto Railway Museum

Film shows Sandwich's indelible history as beacon for freed American slaves February 3 2021

A recently made documentary showcases just how significant one corner of Windsor’s history is. It’s Sandwich, home to the First Sandwich Baptist Church and its uniqueness in all of North America as a haven for runaway 19th century American slaves. The documentary, made by the University of Windsor Leddy Library, is called The North was Our Canaan, and is available online. In the film several local residents and experts speak about the church’s importance as an historic and continuing beacon to the Black community. Windsor or at that time, Sandwich, was a home to American slaves on the Underground Railroad, a series of routes and shelters that escaped slaves from the US South used to find their way to freedom in Canada. According to local historian Irene Davis the Detroit River with its narrow width and therefore easy crossing took on “legendary” even “mythological” proportions. The church, on Peter St. between Prince and Watkins (the Watkins family itself one of the first Black settlers), was originally built by slaves themselves. Even the bricks to this day are considered sacred. The church was a sanctuary in more ways than one - it hid slaves as there were bounty hunters often on their trail. There is a floor opening where there was a two-foot crawl space for people to hide. The The North was Our Canaan is part of a larger project to document the flight and settlement of former slaves in Canada. It was shot by Anushray Singh. Davis, the historian, is president of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society. The movie’s genesis? “Irene (Davis) and I had talked many times about how vital the stories about Windsor's Black history are and how if we pooled our skills and resources, we could build something that could be easily accessed, widely shared and archivally preserved - this film is part of our collective efforts,” Heidi Jacobs, Digital Scholarship Librarian with the Leddy Library, told

Photo: Leddy Library

Pencil in your monthly Date Night! January 21 2021

Date Night did not vanish with Covid-19. The Art Gallery of Windsor has resurrected it – whether you’re a singleton, engaged, married or otherwise romantically involved. The first was held in December and another earlier this month. The next takes place just in time for Valentine’s Day – Feb. 12. For one hour you can log in virtually to the AGW’s website where gallery staffer Derrick Biso will lead you through making art – at home! “The first event was themed around getting cozy and connecting through art online, the second was themed around flowers and bouquets, and this third event is themed around landscapes and nature,” Biso said, On Feb. 12 Biso will take you on a tour of some of the museum’s famed landscape paintings. “We will find inspiration through works that are in the AGW's collection and make a work of our own of either a landscape in the collection or one that we personally find significant.” After the end of the hour-long engagement there will be time to discuss and share points of view. You’ll need materials like paper, magazines, newspapers, colored paper, pencils, markers, scissors, glue stick. Oh yes, a good internet connection, mic and camera-enabled and Zoom connection. Register through the Biso said more virtual date nights are coming in 2021 – every month in fact. Says Biso, “The event is free and is open to individuals, couples, and groups - really anybody wanting to enjoy a virtual date night with the Gallery and one of our team members.”

Shaw Festival 21 featuring nine plays, may get back to "normal" by summer December 17 2020

After numerous concerts this fall, some with live indoor audiences, the Shaw Festival is ready to resume an - almost - full schedule of plays for 2021. A return to “normal” capacity could even take place by summer, fest director Tim Jennings told The season doesn’t start until May and festival staff are monitoring evolving public health such as hoped for decreases in Covid cases as a result of more widespread vaccinations. The fest will likely continue with “some physical distancing” and increased numbers will be permitted “as vaccine distribution increases.” Masks may still be required. For the time being, only 30 per cent of seats per performance are on sale. There will be nine productions, five fewer than what was scheduled last year. Jennings said the Shaw’s dozens of fall in-person concert series – outdoors and indoors - was a success. Venues limited audiences to 50 people socially distanced. He said witnessing performances live provided an “almost overwhelming” impact for audiences given the general absence of live arts performances since the Covid pandemic began. For bookings and safety, Jennings said the Shaw has a dynamic seat reservation system to group audiences by individuals, couples and families. “We have created multiple mapping scenarios for seating based on allowable percentages of occupancy and distancing requirements,” he said. Seats will be assigned closer to performance dates to coordinate with current health protocols. The festival kicks off with Gypsy May 7. Other productions at the festival’s three theatres include Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple, Sherlock Holmes and the Raven’s Curse, Desire Under the Elms and A Christmas Carol.

Photo: Shaw Festival

Windsor tavern played a big role in Detroit early 1980s punk rock scene November 30 2020

Windsor filmmaker Otto Buj’s new film Dope, Hookers and Pavement is a history of the rather short lived and relatively unknown Detroit punk rock scene, and Windsor’s part in it, in the early 1980s. The title refers to the obvious. There was dope, the venue that showcased the hardcore bands was the Freezer Theatre (photo), located in the once notorious Cass Corridor. And the Corridor was equally renowned for its ladies of the night and then some. The film will have its Canadian premiere Jan. 1 online. Buj says that punk scene, important and fascinating as it was, was so short lived it was “mostly mythological.” He started the project after discovering a home movie shot by his brother who frequented the club. “It was the only motion picture documentation of the Freezer,” Buj said. He put it online and got a lot of feedback from people who attended the club. “I knew there was a story there” about this otherwise “pretty obscure” aspect of Detroit music history. He travelled around North American and interviewed 70 people. Along the way he gathered or photographed posters and fanzines of the period - often raw black and white images so emblematic of the hardcore scene. Buj said Windsor played a large role. “Really what happened in Detroit kind of took shape through what was happening in Windsor at a place called the Coronation Tavern,” he said. Buj himself has always been a fan of punk but was a little too young for that “first iteration” and really got involved in the scene in the mid-80s. (The Freezer closed in 1982.) Buj says the film would be of interest beyond music because it depicts a certain slice of Detroit’s social history when suburban kids descended on Cass – “a very permissible neighbourhood where you could do anything.” And it was a time between the 1967 riot, which marked the start of downtown’s slow death, and the city’s revitalization in the late 1980s with the reopening of the Fox Theatre. A raw but epochal period indeed. For a preview, go to

Photo: Otto Buj

Locally-based theatre chain Imagine now one of the largest in Canada November 11 2020

Windsor-based Imagine Cinemas is now one of the larger theatre chains in Canada with 11 cinemas in Ontario and one in British Columbia. Imagine opened its first cinema – the Lakeshore in Tecumseh – in 2005 and then started spreading its wings, or screens. In 2016 it went on a major expansion. Now the chain has theatres in Alliston, Sudbury, Timmins, London, Toronto, Richmond Hill, even Whistler BC. They have sold two - one in Etobicoke, and one in Ottawa “just before Covid hit,” said COO Gina Facca. Imagine bought out the formerly Edmonton based Rainbow Centre Cinemas. This included the Carlton Cinema in Toronto, a noted art house theatre, as well as Market Square across from St. Lawrence Market. “We converted Market Square to all-luxury seating last year,” Facca said. In fact, the chain teamed up with Canadian luxury furniture maker Palliser Furniture and helped design a chair for cinemas. Imagine now has converted about 4000 seats. Facca said the expansion has been financed through cash flow and money raised by the majority owners, the locally based Spencer family. Facca said it was always the chain’s goal to keep growing. “It was always our plan to get as big as we could,” she said. Imagine differentiates itself in the market by offering upscale cinemas economically priced. “We like to brand ourselves as ‘cheap luxury’ if that makes any sense,” she said. Meanwhile, Imagine like all chains has been struggling through Covid with cinemas closed or at limited capacity. In fact, under Windsor-Essex’s current Green or Prevent provincial coding, each auditorium can have a maximum of 50 people, probably the most you’d find for any jurisdiction in Canada. Under the next highest code. Orange or Restrict, it’s 50 people per entire complex. The top code, Red, means cinemas are closed. Facca admitted attendance has been slim. But the chain surveys customers online following screenings and “98 per cent” say they are comfortable having attended a movie. But the real reason for lack of attendance is offerings. “We haven’t had a major release since January,” she said. Tickets are purchased online only but concessions are open. Masks must be worn except when eating.

Spiderling's Loyal Loris takes on the nasty Tecumseh pond mosquitoes October 27 2020

Loyal Loris, the seventh in former local author Winnifred Williams’s Spiderling Chronicles is out, with an eighth book slated for Christmas. The soft-covered very colorful books are geared for kids learning to speak first words and form vocabulary. And many of the stories were inspired by a pond in the backyard of the author’s former Tecumseh home. Williams, who has split her time between England and Windsor but is now back in the UK, created the books while bringing up her own kids. Her youngest son had “exhibited extreme anxiety” around insects and especially spiders. That began affecting his siblings. So Williams, a technical writer by trade but who wrote creative in her spare time, “invented personalities for all the spiders we met, and eventually gave each spider its own story.” These led her to the mythical spiderlings and their tales of adventure. In the latest book, Loyal Loris “leads the garden folk to battle to protect their garden pond when the monstrous mosquitoes buzz into town.” The books aren’t just fun to read to tots by day or night but they're great to learn from. They’re written with a rhythm or rhyming story, which is considered a great way for parents to read and for kids to understand. They teach children the sounds of words, and word families, such as me, be, see, tree, free. The author herself has had a rich background, living in England, continental Europe and then in the US and in Toronto and locally in LaSalle and Tecumseh. She now resides in Derbyshire UK. The previous Spiderling books were named Noisy Norris, Candy Coris, Flying Floris, and Brave Boris. The next two – “hatched when we were finally back in Canada,” says Williams – were DIY Doris and Helpful Horace. (All are available on Amazon.) The Tecumseh house pond was “the inspiration” for Loyal Lewis. “And characters Freddie the Frog, Fifi the Firefly, and George the Dragonfly were named after my three children.” Finally, the eighth book, Moneybags Morris, inspired by the former millionaire who owned the Williams's large Tecumseh fixer-upper, will be published in December. 

City dinosaur statues had come from iconic US Sinclair Oil Corporation October 13 2020

Two of the city’s riverside sculpture garden’s more idiosyncratic sculptures had a little-known commercial background dating to an iconic US gas station chain. One was Dino, a painted fiberglass dinosaur, made in 1932 and which came from the Sinclair Oil Corp., famous for its green dinosaur logo. It wasn’t unique but a replica and numerous ones were displayed at the chain’s gas stations far and wide. “Collectively, among other dinosaur related materials, they were the central component of a marketing campaign for the Sinclair Oil Corporation in the 1930s,” says a city parks committee report earlier this month. The sculpture was located at the west end of Assumption Park. Cute as it may have been the problem was that it was deteriorating, and the city recommended getting rid of it. The paint was “flaking off in large plates” and there is “water ingress along with freeze-thaw cycles will only accelerate the deterioration of the painted finish, the fiberglass form, and the internal metal structure.”  Maintenance is “no longer feasible.” The second sculpture was Triceratops, thought to be part of “Sinclair’s Dinoland” at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. “While in better condition than Dino, it shows the early stages of the same type of paint instability and delamination with similar water ingress issues and overall degradation,” the report stated. The statue was also in Assumption Park. The committee recommended it too be removed from Windsor’s public art inventory because of deterioration. The appraisal of both sculptures in 2012 totaled about $15,000.

Photo: Wikipedia

Kids' book explores bi-racial identity Sept. 11 2020

Jacquelin Ihuwan, a family studies teacher at Riverside high school, one day was at the supermarket with her daughter when another woman came up and asked about adoption. That’s because Jacquelin’s daughter is of a different skin colour than hers. Jacquelin told the woman, “She’s not adopted, she’s mine.” The woman was puzzled. “I said I gave birth to her,” Jacquelin said. The woman gave Jacquelin “the weirdest look” and said she “looks nothing like” her.  Jacqueline is white and her daughter’s father is black. As a result of that supermarket incident, Jacquelin began thinking how common it is for people to misunderstand bi-racial children and their families. For example, a child of a black and white couple may have a stronger pigmentation from one parent. Jacquelin also thought about her own kids. They’re still quite young but how will they handle situations as they grow older and start mixing with others. Said Jacquelin, “What’s going to happen when a little kid starts asking my daughter questions about why she doesn’t look exactly like her mom, how is that going to make her feel?” So Jacquelin came up with the idea of a book. The object was to “create a story” that allows parents to explore wider topics “because some parents just don’t know where to start and how to talk about matters like skin color and ethnicity.” The result is her new 24-page, When I Look in the Mirror. Because the book is in children’s format Jacquelin thinks the message will better resonate. “If you make a book that’s devoted to children, has got the colorful pictures and it rhymes, it might be a good way to get children’s attention but also allow parents to use as a tool to segue into deeper conversations.” The storyline is about a little girl who’s asked by other kids why she doesn’t look like her mom. When she returns home she looks at a family photo and at herself. So, the tagline: “When I look in the mirror you’re not who I see; please tell me mommy why don’t you look like me?’ Each page compares a different feature of mom and dad and ends with that line. At the end of the book the mom explains that ethnicity plays a role and “you’re a mix of the two.”  While kids can obviously enjoy it,  for parents, the book also discusses self-esteem, family dynamics and different family structures. When I Look in the Mirror has watercolour illustrations by US artist Caroline Zina and is available on Amazon.

Art studio crawl still might happen August 27 2020

A highly popular local arts studio crawl, cancelled in May due to the coronavirus, could still happen this fall. Only it might be a virtual tour. The tours, which have taken place since 2011 and can feature as many as a couple dozen artists, was to have taken place May 2 and 3. It wasn’t a cancellation and the Arts & Cultural Alliance still has been accepting artist registrations. Asked if it could still come off but virtually, alliance executive director Leona MacIntye (pictured) said, “We may still do that” noting Alliance members are “still working on it.” The tour used to be held in the fall and was “very popular.” The public could print off online maps and then travel from studio to studio – often where there were groups of artists – to meet the artists and check out their craftsmanship. “It could be one location with four artists in it,” she said. It’s more than just painting and sculpture but jewellers, potters. “Last year we had a chain saw person who did chain saw demonstrations,” she said. Meanwhile, the alliance, founded in 2011, still plans on a Spring tour. “That’s the fallback position,” she said. ”We may do both were not sure yet. It’s a matter of volunteer resources.” The alliance has about 50 members but put off a membership drive this year. It’s goal is to strengthen local arts and culture by bringing artists together and building relationships and sponsoring community projects.

Photo: Arts Alliance

Doc captures Detroit rock mag's vibe August 11 2020

This is the second definitive documentary on what it was like to be in the centre of the rock and roll universe circa late 1960s-early 1970s – that would be the Windsor-Detroit area. It’s called CREEM: America's Only Rock 'N' Roll Magazine and documents the rise and fall of a Detroit born publication that rivaled its more famous counterpart, Rolling Stone magazine. But CREEM was a hell of a lot brassier, subversive and politically incorrect - a combination of Mad Magazine, an underground newspaper and a genuine music fan mag. It started out in Detroit’s notorious Cass Corridor and saw some of the most famous rock and roll writers pass through its doors – many like Dave Marsh and Lester Bangs who went on to flashier publications – steer the publication in its early days, even if they were at verbal and sometimes physical throats of each other. The magazine was a maelstrom of personalities and attitudes as it wrote about and promoted artists far and wide – from John Lennon to J. Geils, Elton John to T. Rex – but also exposing to the world Detroit rock and roll talent. Performers like the MC 5, The Stooges, SRC, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper and the list goes on. “These original boundary pushing artists (were) indicative of the city and this was a boundary pushing magazine,” says Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, some years younger and obviously envious for a scene he just missed. “It was probably then most important for music in the 60s,” says Punk mag editor John Holmstrom. CREEM was not only a magazine office but a crash pad and ongoing party venue, booze and drugs of course flowing freely. As editor Dave Marsh reminisces, “We made paradise from the squalor.” CREEM continued for 20 years until finally folding in 1989. But the brash, irreverent mood of the magazine – so reflective of the era – lives on in this documentary. What’s great about it is that it so captures that era in Detroit, and by osmosis Windsor. In that way it is similar to a documentary,  Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8, which came out in 2004, and which impeccably sums up the broadcasting vibe of Windsor-based CKLW radio, famed far and wide across North America and which broke some of the biggest artists and songs. Put these two movies together and you’ll have a mini film fest of the counter cultural and pop vibes that made this area such an important - indeed iconic – location for rock music of the era.

AGW celebrates front line workers while planning autumn re-opening July 8 2020

The Art Gallery of Windsor will be celebrating the efforts of people who have been on the front lines during the Covid-19 crisis. Twelve local artists will be making limited edition artworks available as posters. These will be available for sale as a fundraising initiative next week at soon to be launched But the reproductions will be offered free for those actually on the front lines. “AGW staff will be dropping off the posters at the places of work where employees have requested posters,’ AGW director Jennifer Matotek (photo) says. This “builds” on other efforts recently while the AGW has remained closed due to Covid-19, she adds. These include the “thank you” sign by artist George Rizok in front of the museum to Takeout Tuesday where AGW gives free memberships to those ordering takeout from selected restaurants downtown. Meanwhile the museum is looking for a fall re-opening after the province allows Windsor-Essex to advance to Stage 3. (The same will likely go for the adjacent Chimczuk Museum, featuring city history, curator Madelyn Della Valle told Matotek says the AGW will open a little later than other provincial museums and “learn from their experiences.” Matotek said a survey of members found they didn’t want to reopen until autumn. “We expect when we reopen, we'll be looking at requiring masks, Plexiglas, updating cleaning regimens, limiting capacity/entry, and reconfiguring displays and spaces to reduce 'touch' and 'gathering' points among many other steps to keep people safe and healthy.” Meanwhile programs continue while the physical building is closed. The public has been asked to “review” AGW art works on AGW’s facebook page and mentor with UW professor Catherine Heard. There are also online puzzles featuring AGWs works and “playlists” attuned to current events like Black Lives Matter, Pride month and National Indigenous History Month. 

Photo: Art Gallery of Windsor

Your post-lockdown comfort level? Inquiring festivals want to know June 18 2020

As more events get postponed because of the coronavirus lockdown longtime annual festivals are starting to put out feelers about how they should proceed in the future. Such is the case with the documentary and Michigan-oriented Freep Film Festival sponsored by the Detroit Free Press. The festival, usually held in April, has already been postponed because of the Covid lockdown. Now organizers are looking at a December event. A survey asks attendees various questions related to their comfort levels. How comfortable are they attending a movie theatre now versus in December? How about social engagements, such as degrees of comfort eating out at a restaurant, or having a drink in a bar. What about watching a sporting event at an outdoor stadium or a concert outdoors versus an indoors. And would people attend if safety protocols were in place such as limiting theatre attendance to one-third or one-half, requiring face masks, or arriving early for “timed, socially distanced entry" and wiping down seats between screenings. Are food concessions important? And what about pre or post film social mixers? Is it worth having film personnel such as producers, directors, cast, at screenings? And, this being the subject of the survey, what about the number of films to be screened?

Photo: Detroit Film Theatre (DIA)

Digital media arts centre alive and well, with virtual student camp this summer June 2 2020

The Windsor Centre for Film, Digital Media & The Creative Arts is alive and well with a couple of alterations and more announcements to come. Amanda Gellman, the centre’s chair and fundraising campaign head, took over the former large red brick Knights of Columbus Hall at 691 Ouellette almost three years ago. The private arts centre is unique and Gellman’s goal was to provide arts education and video production studios as well as live entertainment. Since that time one program has continued at the building while another has moved elsewhere. HUB691 at the Ouellette building is an ‘accelerator” for students who want to make films and create digital media companies. Meanwhile, what’s known as the Media Arts Centre was moved to a “more conducive building for the ages 8 to 30, which is our main target along with those over 55,” Gellman said. Some 350 students have gone through the filmmaking camp “and we hired over 50 summer students along the way.” With the current Covid restrictions there is no camp this summer but virtual learning is in the works. The two-storey K of C building has a history little known to Windsor residents. There used to be a swimming pool there, being converted to a small theatre, and a bowling alley, converted to music studios and editing suites. Gellman has plans for a live entertainment space including music and stand-up comics. 

This festival is going online, for now April 21 2020

The Freep Film Festival is going online. The festival was scheduled to run April 22 - 26 but because of the Covid-19 pandemic is being rescheduled to December. Meanwhile, you can watch 12 of the films on line by going to over the next several days. For example, on April 22 at 1 pm you can watch Palliative + Today was a Good Day – two shorts that examine the lives of health care workers, apropos for the times. For auto enthusiasts, on Friday at 7.30 pm, there’s Shelby American: The Carroll Shelby Story. Matt Damon may have played Shelby in the biopic, but this flic tells the “full story of the trailblazing, automotive visionary behind the Ford GT40.” On Sunday at 3 pm, you can catch The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter + The Girl with the Rivet Gun, two films about the heroic female industrial workers who kept American industry humming during World War II. Again, it’s part metaphor for today's times. This was to be the festival’s seventh edition. Festival organizers apologized for having to postpone the regular theatrical event. “We’re so sorry we won’t be seeing you at the end of April," organizers said. "The Covid-19 development is particularly distressing for those who believe in the power of film presented in a communal setting, and we certainly do,”  People who purchased a pass will still be able to use it when the festival resumes in the first week of December. Will that event be just as large? “We are confident there will be dozens and dozens of film screenings, along with parties, music, food events and free educational offerings,” organizers say. “The festival team is committed to creating the same exciting festival environment you know and love.” The festival is sponsored by the Detroit Free Press and focusses on documentaries, many Michigan-centric.

Research to bolster Windsor film festival's community involvement April 7 2020

A research team led by the University of Windsor is exploring ways to expand the Windsor International Film festival’s (WIFF) involvement with the community. The data could have implications for other film festivals around the country, including Toronto’s famous one. University of Windsor film professor Kim Nelson leads a team of five, including WIFF’s managing director Hayden Freker and researchers from Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier University and the Toronto film festival itself. The research spins out from WIFF 365, a year-round program of film screenings. That’s different from the festival itself which takes places each autumn. (No word yet on whether the coronavirus pandemic may influence this year’s dates Oct. 30 – Nov. 8.) “We want to assess WIFF’s current outreach program and use the results to develop short-term strategies and a long-term vision for sustaining community interest year-round,” Nelson said in a news story on the university’s website. She said that while the festival itself has been wildly successful – with 42,000 tickets sold last year – “the challenge in replicating that popularity in the intervening weeks of the year.” She called this a “fascinating research problem.” Nelson is also a WIFF board member. She said the research will examine what local people “want out” of WIFF. This includes extending the reach into various community sectors and “how to generate their interest in screenings.” The COVID-19 crisis has eliminated the possibility of doing “exit interviews” with people who attend the monthly screenings. That will have to be delayed or done electronically, Nelson said. But other research, such as examining WIFF’s archives (it’s been running 15 years, this year would make its 16th edition), is proceeding. Besides hopefully increasing monthly WIFF attendance the researchers will publish online so that other festivals can use the data for their own outreach. The research is being funded with almost $25,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, $3000 from WIFF itself and $2000 in in-kind support from the university’s School of Creative Arts.

Photo: U of Windsor

Comic Gerry Dee takes his average family man schtick to Windsor March 13 2020

Comedian Gerry Dee is taking his act to Windsor’s Chrysler Theatre March 28. Dee has made a name for himself largely on CBC TV shows currently as host of Family Feud Canada and earlier on his sitcom Mr. D. But he also hosted Gerry Dee: Sports Reporter on cable channel The Score. And he had a role on the US comedy series The Moodys. Dee describes himself as an average Canadian family man with a particular interest in sports and especially hockey, something that should resonate with Windsorites, who tend to be family-oriented and hockey mad. “I know Windsor’s a great hockey town I know a lot of guys who’ve played there so it’s always fun to go talk to crowds that love hockey,” though sports will be a small part of his overall act. His TV segment as an intrepid comedic sports reporter saw him go head to head with some of sports’ major superstars. “I was kind of mocking the traditional interviews that they are so used to and probably bored of,” he says. “That’s really all that was and kind of catch them off guard and try to make them laugh.” For such a hockey fanatic he’ll have a bit in his Windsor show about his son not being interested in Canada’s national game - perish the thought! His other TV show Mr. D was all about having once worked as a teacher. One of his earlier stand-up jokes was about how, as a substitute teacher, he had to learn the whole lesson the night before class and was petrified of a student asking anything about future chapters. Dee’s material on teachers is “kind of like the inside world of teaching (that) a lot of people wished they knew about but don’t.” Asked if it’s more difficult to be a comedian in an era of increased political correctness, Dee says it’s probably true though his material isn’t particularly controversial. “You’re always going to offend someone…if you go up there and think I can’t offend one person then you’re not going to be a very good comic.” An example is where he once joked that, as a kid, he found the way Arabs spoke as angry because of their guttural tone. “The joke is about being six - right? - so when you’re six you do things…I think that joke would still fly, putting myself down like such an idiot I was.”

Book puts kids’ heads up in clouds Feb. 10 2020

The next time you see your son or daughter staring out the window it might not be because they’re daydreaming. In fact, they may be trying to figure out what a cloud formation looks like and then writing about it in a brand new children’s book, edited by a Windsor author. Chad Price has published Just My Imagination, now retailing on Amazon and Indigo and hopefully in local bookstores soon. The book seeks to get kids to put down the iPad and look around their natural environment - up at the sky and into the clouds, to be precise. Each page offers a cloud formation with a hint from the author. The cloud might look like a crab, a kiss goodbye, an angel, two figures dancing, or a little dragon. The script says, “What do you see?” On the opposite page is a drawing of a child, based on Price’s son Jakson, looking up at the sky with a big cloud bubble. The child using the book is to write-in what they see in the bubble, which could be much different from what the author’s clue was. “I just kind of give hints towards exactly what it is,” Price says. He’s already sold some books to teachers “and they’re telling me how amazingly the kids love it because it really gets them involved to use their minds and think of what they see.” He knows as a parent – besides his son he has three stepchildren and they’re otherwise “on their iPads all day every day.” The book retails in soft cover for between $10 and $12 and in hardcover for between $23-$26. Price, a former chef who’s worked at the Michigan Diner and Dominion Golf & Country Club, and now sells real estate, hopes to be doing some book readings soon at area schools. While kids are often admonished to get their heads out of the clouds, with constructive ideas from a book like this, they’ll want to do exactly the opposite.

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Suspected slain DJ had a Windsor radio connection

John O’Leary, the Detroit disc jockey found dead in his Highland Park home, had a Windsor connection. In the 1990s he worked for a time at Radio 4, comprised of four radio stations – FM’s 89.1 and 93.3 and AM’s 580 and 800. O’Leary was found dead from stab wounds. Highland Park police have arrested a suspect. O’Leary, 67, worked at many Detroit radio stations including WABX, WWWW, WLLZ and his last gig at WCSX. – 11/23/21

It's A'burg's Art by the River - only indoors

It’s Art by the River, only the indoors version. Amherstburg’s venerable Gibson Gallery, the decades old gallery in the former Michigan Central Railroad station off Richmond St., will be holding its Artisan Shoppe, just in time for Christmas. The shop runs Nov 18 - Dec 12 on Thursdays through Sundays 11 am – 5 pm. Fourteen artists or studios are being represented. Works include rustic house signs, watercolour cards, glass, jewelry, basket weaving, body care, thread painting and candles. The gallery is run by the Fort Malden Guild of Arts and Crafts. And, oh yes, the traditional outdoors Art by the River returns next year Aug. 27 & 28 at Fort Malden National Historic Site on the Detroit River. – 11/15/21

Photo: Gibson Gallery

No response on when University Players will perform in-person

The University of Windsor Players (UP) is performing plays in virtual format. The province since Oct. 9 allowed theatres and concert halls to open at 100 per cent indoor capacity, subject to vaccine screening (passports) and mask-wearing. However the UP's autumn play If We Were Birds, directed by Lee Wilson, was presented live via “Zoom webinar” and incorporated recorded performances from the university’s studio theatre. When will the UP perform live once again? Neither the Players nor the dramatic arts department responded to several requests for comment. – 11/8/21 [UPDATE 11/22/21: UW Players has now responded: "We're still making our plans for the upcoming semester and we won't be able to confirm our capacity just yet. We'll be making an announcement as soon as we go live with ticket sales for our in person shows in the coming year."]

Brace yourself for a night of scary Halloween music

Strange apparitions may scare the innocent at Halloween. But music can play a part as well. The Windsor Symphony knows just that. It’s scheduled a night of scary Halloween-theme music just in time for the Trick or Treat event. “Remember the music in Psycho, one of Hitchcock’s scariest films…or the music filled with suspense, intrigue, and humour from the  cult-classics Rocky Horror Picture Show and Little Shop of Horrors? How about Sondhiem’s haunting music from Sweeney Todd? This is the perfect program for Halloween!” Symphony conductor Robert Franz will direct St. Clair College Music Theatre students in the hourlong Halloween on Broadway concert at the Capitol Theatre Oct. 30 beginning 7.30 pm. - 10/15/21

Photo: Windsor Symphony

Unique tote bags support local artists

You can get a limited-edition tote bag and support local artists. The Arts Council Windsor and Region is selling the Voices Tote Bag through Oct. 31. Cost: $20. Each bag sports a different design by a local artist. The bags also promote the council’s New Voices billboard. The 6x6 board is located on the outside wall of ArtSpeak gallery. It features interchangeable letters for language-based exhibits and poetry. It’s designed to provide an outlet for “underrepresented and marginalized voices in our community” including new generation, new immigrant and artists of colour, the council says. – 9/22/21

Photo: Artspeak’s example tote featuring Alexei Ungurenaşu’s Hold, Twist Release.

Immerse yourself in Claude Monet's iconic paintings

Those who love French Impressionist artist Claude Monet can glory in a multi-media immersive exhibit now through Oct. 3 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The three part multi-sensory experience combines music, sound effects, and projection. Beyond Monet provides an audio visual journey through the artist's most iconic works - Poppies, Impression: Sunrise, and the iconic Water Lilies series. Viewers in fact become one with the paintings as the larger than life projections swirl around, immersing the observer in colour and light. – 8/24/21

Image: Beyond Monet

AGW reopening reflects separate museum status

The Art Gallery of Windsor (AGW) is re-opening this week, despite the fact other city museums are remaining closed until fall (see front page). Jennifer Matotek, the AGW’s new director, (photo) who took over as Covid came on the scene last year and has presided over a mainly closed museum, said the AGW is opening earlier because of its independent status. She said the gallery has a “separate operating model” than, for example, Museum Windsor, which runs the adjoining Chimczuk Museum and nearby Francois Baby House. “We have been ready to go for a while with our reopening." Matotek said. -  8/10/21

Refurbished art, garden upgrade at Willistead Manor

When Willistead Manor reopens once pandemic restrictions ease look for a few changes and upgrades. One is the the fully refurbished portrait of Elizabeth Talman Walker, granddaughter of Hiram Walker, in the dining room. There are also two new donated Bisque figure wall art pieces in the drawing room. Willistead also will have undergone a small rebuild of a garden and some general house repairs. This year marks the Manor’s 115th birthday. The 36-room mansion was designed by famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn and built in 1906. It was the brief home of Edward and Mary Chandler Walker and is surrounded by a 15-acre park, home to Art in the Park. The Manor hosts weddings, receptions, meetings and special events. Work continues on the Paul Martin Garden, the HVAC system and foundation drainage, paid through federal gas tax funding. – 7/6/21

Photo: City of Windsor

Expanded Motown Museum set to open later this year

Hitsville Next, the $50 million expansion to Detroit’s storied Motown Museum, will open later this year. The expansion will create a 50,000 sq. ft. “campus” around the former three residential houses converted half a century ago to studios and offices for the famous Motown artists. This week philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott, former wife of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, donated $5 million to the expansion effort. The museum is more than halfway towards its $25 million fundraising goal. The new wing will feature interactive exhibits, a professional recording studio, “an expanded retail experience,” a state of the art performance theatre and “smart” classrooms and meeting spaces, according to the museum website. – 6/17/21

Image: Motown Museum

Two 2022 art blockbusters 

If you’re an optimist you’ll believe the Canada-US border will be open by February 2022. If it actually is, you’ll once again be able to drive across the river to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) for the first of two major art exhibits next year. The first, By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800, runs Feb. 6 – May 29. Artemisia (1593-1656) was “arguably one of the most famous 17th century Italian painters,” the DIA says. Her Judith and Her Maidservant already hangs at the DIA. And surely the border will be reopened by October next year – no? – when the blockbuster Van Gogh in America opens. The DIA celebrates the 100th anniversary of its purchase of Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait. It’s the first painting by the iconic artist to be bought by an American museum.  The exhibit runs Oct. 2 – Jan. 22/23. - 5/26/21

Pay artists? Zoom-in to join the discussion

How or how much should artists be paid? Local artists will take up the subject up in an online panel discussion May 27 at 5.30 pm. The free event will feature five local artists. They are Leslie McCurdy, award winning performer known for her Harriet Tubman series. Jay Raven is an illustrator, graphic artist and muralist. Kaitlyn Karns is a vocal and piano teacher and has performed widely on local stages. Travis Reitsma is a singer-songwriter with two solo albums, one with the band Diane Motel. Teejai Travis is an artist and curator and Artsite’s executive director. Artsite is sponsoring the event. – 5/12/21 

Image: Artsite

Ducharme exhibit focusses on natural

Amherstburg’s Gibson Gallery will feature Kingsville artist Ann Ducharme, an artists of various media, in an exhibition “Merging Concepts” during the month of May. Ducharme, chair of the Kingsville arts society, works in dot, representational and conceptional styles. Her subjects are nature – flowers and trees and animals. The dot and wave aspects of her work evoke hyperrealism or stained glass. “I could say I’m self-taught, but it is nature, and great Canadian artist like Glen Loates, Robert Bateman, Emily Carr, and Christine Marshall …..that have taught me through their inspiration,” she says in her online page…..Also in Amherstburg, the town’s traditional Art by the River is still scheduled for Aug. 28 and 29. Last year’s event was cancelled due to Covid. The event, a Gibson Gallery fundraiser, has been an end of summer mainstay since 1967.– 4/28/21

Still much too soon for decision on return to a normal WIFF

No word yet on what kind of shape the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) might take this fall. The festival usually runs in late October and early November and for the first time in its 16-year history was forced to cancel regular indoor screenings last year because of Covid-19. It did, however, offer a successful drive-in program WIFF Under the Stars for two weeks in late summer. Kim Nelson, a University of Windsor film professor and WIFF board member, said “no decision” has been made about this year’s festival. Nelson said hosting the regular festival will depend on local health conditions, including monitoring the “vaccine rollout.” – 4/12/21

Opportunity to become a writing champ

With time on their hands more people may have been trying their hand at writing during the pandemic. The UK-based Page Turner Awards found writers spent 61 per cent more time doing just that over the past year. Whether you’re experienced or novice, the Awards wants to hear from you. “Whether you have a non-fiction 'how to' guide, a tear-jerking memoir, a scandalous family drama, or the next-big-thing comedy, Page Turner Awards can’t wait to pass your story to their panel of influential literary judges, publishers and film producers,” says the organization. These can be anything from books to film scripts even TV series. Winners could get a publishing deal, audiobook production or film rights option. “There is no doubt that the Canadian writing community, with their variety of unique life experiences, have some excellent and fascinating stories and advice to share,” says the Awards. Submissions are due May 31. Find more info

– 3/19/21

70 years on, the big top returning to Stratford Festival 

Stratford will return to its roots this summer by going under the big top. There will be “two magnificent canopies” at the Festival and Tom Patterson theatres and  “about a dozen” outdoor productions, says the famous Shakespearean festival. The plan is to offer " a combination of plays and cabarets, running roughly 90 minutes each.” The events hinge on public health guidelines. “We are creating a schedule that can contract, if required, and also expand in response to the opening or closing of the province and community,” Executive Director Anita Gaffney says in a release.  Outdoor events can accommodate 100 versus only 50 people indoors. There will be some nostalgia. The canopies are a “pragmatic adaption” of the original festival tent in the 1950s. The new tents will allow Stratford to “build a bridge” to 2022 after mass Covid vaccinations and “return to large-scale productions” in its four theatres. – 3/2/21

Image: Stratford Festival

Movie theatres are back ... over there

It almost seems like old times. Detroit newspapers once again are carrying full page movie theatre listings. Michigan theatres re-opened Feb. 1 after being closed twice for a total of 10 months due to Covid-19. Home town Emagine Entertainment, which operates theatres throughout the Midwest, is following “standard Cinema Safe” protocols including providing two seats between unrelated parties. Concesions are open. Capacity is limited to 25 per cent – “nearly impossible to run a viable business at 25%.  We continued to pay all property taxes, in addition to state and local fees,” CEO Anthony LaVerde told Arthouse Landmark Theatres Main Royal Oak cinema uses the same protocols, initiated by the National Association of Theatre Owners.  “Generally, we require masks, social distancing, spraying the theater with disinfectant between shows,” spokeswoman Margot Gerber said. -2/9/21

A Covid-sensitive festival space in downtown Detroit

Detroit’s top downtown developer Bedrock is bringing live entertainment and a festival atmosphere to the city’s core and adapting it to pandemic protocols. Decked Out Detroit plans a drive-in movie theatre and a concert site.  The temporary attraction would include a movie screen, stage, food and beverage concessions, and stalls for 77 vehicles, according to a Downtown Development Authority document, reported by The Detroit News. Also possible is a “no touch” play area for kids. It’s all part of the Decked Out initiative to draw people downtown, even in winter and even during the pandemic. “Bedrock remains committed to creating a safe, festive and family-friendly environment downtown Detroit throughout the winter season and beyond,” company officials said in a statement. Meanwhile the company is “investing millions and working with a number of partners to imagine new socially distanced and innovative attractions.” – 1/13/21

Photo: Emagine Entertainment

Detroit rock legend caught Covid inside family bubble

Detroit rock legend Suzi Quatro has recovered from Covid-19. Quatro, now a resident of the UK, told the Daily Mail that she was taking uber precautions against the virus. But she caught the bug from her pre-teen grandson, ironically part of her family Covid bubble, at a family dinner at her home. She thinks he must have got it at school. Quatro, known for her leather suits on stage and who has sold 50 million records, has a new Christmas album, My Heart and Soul (I Need you Home For Christmas). – 12/14/20

Photo: Wikipedia

Windsor's avant- garde festival catalogue online

Windsor’s own Media City Film Festival, an avant-garde internationally acclaimed festival created in 1994, is taking its catalogue of films online. As part of the launch of THOUSANDSUNS CINEMA some 60 films - short and long – will be available between Dec. 2 and 23. These include films by international renowned Canadian filmmakers such as Canada’s Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland. Fest director Oona Mosna said the cinema will provide a “veritable treasure trove of artists’ cinema as a beacon during a time of global hardship.” The films will be available to a worldwide audience. New films will be added on a rolling basis.  – 12/2/20

Image: Kevin Jerome Everson/ Trilobite-Arts DAC/ Picture Palace Pictures

Former U of W art instructor dies

Canadian artist and former University of Windsor art instructor Sylvie Bélanger is dead at the age of 69. Born in Quebec she had a teaching stint at the university in the 1980s and 90s. She died of cancer in Montreal last month.  Bélanger was a strong Quebec nationalist, even publishing the manifesto of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ). After nationalists lost the 1980 Quebec referendum she left the province and studied fine art in Toronto while establishing her own artist career. Besides having an artist residence in Windsor she taught at the State University of New York in Buffalo, New York. Former colleague Ginette Legaré told The Globe and Mail that Bélanger has a terrific rapport with her students. “She had total generosity towards the work of others, whether students, peers or strangers," said Legaré, adding it would be difficult to walk down the street without former students stopping her. – 11/18/20

Chimczuk and Baby House museums re-openings  “unknown”

Museum Windsor – in other words the rebranded umbrella term for theChimczuk Museum and Francois Baby House, almost a stone’s throw from one another downtown – remain closed at least until the end of the year. “Museum Windsor along with other Recreation & Culture facilities, at the direction of (city) council, will remain closed until December 31, 2020, with an unknown opening date,” says Cathy Masterson, Manager of Cultural Affairs for the city. The newer Chimczuk museum took over the first floor of the Art Gallery of Windsor building and the Francois Baby House on Pitt St. has been a longtime city historical museum. Meanwhile, the Art Gallery of Windsor, in the same Riverside Dr. building as the Chimczuk, re-opened earlier this month.  Why the different openings? “The Art Gallery of Windsor is a tenant of the city's and is operated through its own board of governors,” Masterson says.  “Their board would be responsible for determining their opening date.” - 10/28/20

Photo: City of Windsor

Local artist Denial's work to be featured on Detroit building

Windsor artist Denial aka Daniel Joseph Bombardier’s mural will be replicated on the lower part of an innovative building in Detroit’s Eastern Market. The four storey 40,000 sq. ft. Glass Mural building will eventually house retail and offices.  Netherlands-based architecture firm MVRDV will print colorful murals within a transparent façade around the building. “This project is unlike anything Detroit has ever seen,” Marvin Beatty, a partner with FIRM Real Estate, told The Detroit News. Denial’s work has been featured around the world. In Windsor, his murals are gloriously displayed in WIFF Alley, connecting University Ave. and Chatham St. – a shortcut between venues for those attending the Windsor International Film Festival. Bombardier describes himself as a pop and mural artist “whose aerosol and stencil art works critique contemporary politics, capitalism, consumerism and the human condition.” Bombardier’s art has been exhibited in New York, Chicago, Houston, Austin, New York, Toronto, Melbourne, Dubai, Miami and Vancouver. – 10/1/20

Photo: MVRDV

Online exhibit features images from the early months of the Covid-19 lockdown

Windsor-based Media City Film Festival has announced a new online exhibition space called Dark Dark Gallery. It’s inaugural show is Radical Acts of Care and is on view until Sept. 26. The exhibit offers a “multidisciplinary experience,” according to a release. It brings together moving image artworks, photography, drawing, performance, poetry, and activism, “all from an incredible roster of international artists.” Among offerings are Iranian poet and film director Forough Farrokhzad's The House is Black (1962), which was made while the director lived in a leper colony. As well, several items were made during the early months of the current coronavirus lockdown. These include multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker Cauleen Smith's COVID Manifesto (2020) and a series of artist audio talks. – 8/28/20

Detroit museum promises its patrons that it will do better

Detroit’s cutting-edge art museum, embroiled in scandal, wants visitors to know it is doing everything possible to rectify problems. The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) last month fired its executive director after a kind of uprising by scores of staff against Elysia Borowy-Reeder. An anonymous group called MOCAD Resistance in early July accused the director of creating a "a toxic work environment" characterized by "various racist micro-aggressions, mis-gendering, violent outbursts ... and tokenization of marginalized artists." Borowy-Reeder, who started at MOCAD in 2013, said in a statement that she regretted she had to learn about her termination via press release, "after an investigation I disagree with, and was not interviewed for." She also apologized for “any harm I caused.” The museum now pledges on its website to be “committed to taking every measure possible to ensure our employees, artists and the broader community enjoy a creative environment that is respectful and inclusive.” – 8/11/2020

Photo: MOCAD Detroit

48-Hr FlickFest "Lockdown" ed online, awards tomorrow 

For the first time the Mark Boscariol 48-Hour FlickFest is now online. Two weeks ago, 32 teams of filmmakers quickly hustled and made short films with a 48-hour deadline. It’s an annual tradition of Windsor’s very popular fall film festival though usually seen during the fest itself. As of noon today all films were available on the WIFF YouTube channel. Organizers urge the public to watch them before a virtual awards ceremony tomorrow at 8 pm, which can be watched on the WIFF Facebook page. – 6/18/20

It's sort of like Jane Austen selling shoes at the local mall

If you like Jane Austen, have ever worked in retail, perhaps have a love for shoes, you might love Windsor-based author Heidi L. M. Jacobs’s book Molly of the Mall: Literary Lass and Purveyor of Fine Footwear. The book just won the 2020 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. While Jacobs is now an English and History Librarian at the University of Windsor the book is focused on her home town of Edmonton and a job she had at the gargantuan West Edmonton Mall while a university student in the 1990s. Publisher NuWeest Press's website says the book is named for “one of literature’s least romantic protagonists, Moll Flanders.” With Jane Austen influences, blogger Kerry Clare of Pickle Me This says of Jacobs, “Honestly, she came out of nowhere, the novel about a woman who is obsessed with 19th century literature..…I loved this book.” – 6/9/20

Canadians win against director of cult classic film 'The Room'

A cult hit of a film, The Room, which has been shown at the Windsor International Film Festival, was the subject of a victorious lawsuit by a group of Canadian filmmakers who had made a documentary about it. The Room, directed by Tommy Wiseau, was made in 2003 and is considered so bad it’s good and won the hearts and minds of a subculture of fans, who laugh, shout out lines from memory and even, at pivotal moments, throw spoons at the screen. Ironically, the Ottawa documentary filmmakers thought they were honoring Wiseau by making their film, called Room Full of Spoons. But Wiseau wanted creative control of the movie and threatened legal action, getting a temporary injunction against the doc’s screening. However, last week Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Schabas ruled against Wiseau, saying his negotiations with the Canadian filmmakers were in “bad faith” and his behaviour “oppressive and outrageous.” The doc can now be shown at festivals and midnight screenings everywhere. – 5/13/20

New Detroit conductor sheltering in Toronto

Jader Bignamini, the Detroit symphony’s new conductor, is sheltering in Toronto during Covid-19. Bignamini, who replaced longtime maestro Leonard Slatkin, made his debut in January to great fanfare and has a six-year DSO contract.  The exuberant new music director decided to stay in Toronto because “it's a little safer here than Italy,” according to the Detroit Free Press. Bignamini was scheduled to make his Canadian Opera Company mainstage debut last month in Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida. His formal DSO appearance is expected in December with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. – 5/5/20

Photo: DSO

Jewish film festival now postponed

As might be expected, the city’s oldest film festival, scheduled each spring, has been postponed for 2020. The 18th edition of the Ruth and Bernard Friedman Windsor Jewish Film Festival has been put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak. Jay Katz, executive director of the Windsor Jewish Federation, said due to circumstances created by the pandemic, organizers don’t have a new date. “It’s not really possible to do much planning the way things are, Cineplex is closed, who knows what our horizon is,” he said. Devonshire Cineplex cinemas have traditionally been the site of the festival. Katz declined to announce any titles of the booked films because “that would ruin the suspense and we’ll make a big announcement when the time comes.” The festival shows 10 films over four days. It was scheduled to run Monday-Thursday April 27-30. The festival is the city’s oldest. By contrast the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF), held in autumn, last year celebrated its 15th anniversary. – 4/3/20</i>

Theatres announce COVID-19 policies

Canada's major national theatre chain, Cineplex, has ramped up cleaning of theatres in the wake of novel coronavirus fears. President Ellis Jacob said the chain has introduced “enhanced cleaning protocols” especially in “high traffic and high contact areas”. Jacob says the virus is easily eliminated by routine surface cleaning and the company’s cleaning products are “industrial grade and food service approved.” The chain also asks customers who are feeling ill to “refrain from visiting us” to keep theatres healthy. Cineplex is also putting policies in place so that staff who take time off because of illness are not penalized financially…..Meanwhile the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts (photo above), one of the area’s premier art house cinemas, has over the COVID-19 fears. It’s among many group activities hosted by the DIA that had been suspended until April 13, including the Friday Night Live! Concert series, artist demonstrations, lectures and daily tours. The museum has also stepped up cleaning of public spaces and surfaces, and asks visitors who are ill with flulike symptoms or travelled to a country with widespread COVID-19 cases, to postpone trips to the museum. – 3/13/20