Manitoba music museum tapped to be part of future curling centre

The Manitoba government has committed $15 million toward building the International Curling Centre of Excellence, which could also include a museum devoted to Manitoba music.

The province issued a formal request for information on Sept. 16 to find private partners to make the proposed international-calibre facility a reality.

The province will inform the board overseeing the centre about the results of the RFI after it closes on Nov. 12.

The province isn’t saying much else about the centre, however. In an emailed statement, it notes the location, total cost and timeline have not been finalized.

“While the RFI is open it would not be appropriate for any further comment as it might negatively impact the efforts to find potential developers and partners for the ICCE project,” the statement said.

The government has never publicly stated its funding commitment. It is quietly listed in one line of the RFI document. 

When asked, a spokesperson wrote in an email that “the province continues to support the effort to build the [centre] and has provided $15 million so that the building committee may have the security to move forward and continue with the efforts to design and construct this amazing facility.”

The money was provided during the 2019-20 fiscal year, the spokesperson said.

Could be home to new music museum

The RFI also reveals another component to the centre — space for the Manitoba Music Experience, a museum devoted to the story of Manitoba’s music history.

That was news to music historian John Einarson, who has been part of the MME since it formed 15 year ago to promote Manitoba’s music scene and its influence around the world.

“To get word that the province was looking into this, it was a real jolt of excitement,” he said. “We’ve been pitching this [museum idea] for 15 years and it’s gone through so many iterations and so many different people driving it.”

John Einarson curated an exhibit at the Manitoba Museum in 2010, called Shakin’ All Over: The Manitoba Music Experience. He also gives bus tours of Winnipeg’s musical heritage. (CBC)

He curated a temporary multimedia exhibit at the Manitoba Museum in 2010 called Shakin’ All Over: The Manitoba Music Experience.

The closest the MME came to a permanent home was a couple of years ago, when the provincial government included it in plans for a new development near Club Regent Casino.

“And all of a sudden the government just cut that whole project,” said Einarson. “So for this tender to be including the Manitoba Music Experience is very, very exciting for us.

“We’ve always sort of said, just give us the keys to a place and we’ll make it happen.”

The Manitoba Music Experience would include multimedia displays, photos, artifacts and memorabilia like this from 2010’s exhibit at the Manitoba Museum. (Submitted by John Einarson)

The 2010 Manitoba Museum exhibit featured stage outfits, instruments, rare recordings and even a door to the popular 1960s-era Cellar Club in downtown Winnipeg, where a teenaged Burton Cummings played piano.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what a permanent gallery could do, said Einarson, who has been in touch with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to get ideas.

John Einarson said there is a wealth of information and memorabilia from Manitoba’s music heritage to share. (Submitted by John Einarson)

Manitoba’s music history is deep, and admired by the likes of Bob Dylan, who made a point of visiting Neil Young’s childhood home on Grosvenor Avenue during a 2008 tour stop in Winnipeg.

“It’s where he got his start writing songs, playing guitar and where The Squires rehearsed,” said Einarson, who runs a bus tour called the Magical Musical History Tour of Winnipeg. 

Neil Young wears a Manitoba Music Experience T-shirt given to him by Einarson. (Submitted by John Einarson)

Young has publicly endorsed the MME, but has never given anything to a music museum before.

“We’re hoping he’s holding out and leaving all of it for us to put here,” Einarson said. “Once you have Neil Young providing artifacts and guitars and all sorts of memorabilia, that creates a world-class facility.” 

In addition to “an incredible musical heritage,” the province has contemporary talents that are always expanding on the legacy, Einarson said.

Former Guess Who frontman Burton Cummings and Einarson at a book signing for Shakin’ All Over: The Winnipeg Sixties Rock Scene at Winnipeg’s Paddlewheel Restaurant in 1987. (Submitted by John Einarson)

“That’s why we’re avoiding the word ‘museum’ and we’d rather say ‘experience,’ because it is ongoing. It’s a living music facility.” 

In addition to displays, the MME would offer launch events for artists, hold educational and outreach programs, and host workshops.

But about $2 million would need to be raised to make it all happen. And that can’t start until there is a confirmed location.

3 years and counting for ICCE

The International Curling Centre of Excellence first surfaced in December 2017, with the announcement by the province of a 13-person committee tasked with overseeing its development.

“ICCE will be designed to promote curling at all levels, train and develop curlers and coaches to achieve top-class international performance, engage students from across Canada, and seek out and host international competitions,” a government release said at the time.

The original steering committee — which included Jennifer Jones and Connie Laliberte, two highly successful curlers from Manitoba — was asked to find ways to partner with the private sector and provide recommendations by summer 2018.

In June 2018, though, the province said it was still looking for potential partners, sponsors and ideas for the best location.

The original steering committee — which included Jennifer Jones, pictured, and Connie Laliberte, two of the most successful curlers to come from the province — was expected to find ways to partner with the private sector and provide recommendations to government by summer 2018. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

According to the government spokesperson, the original committee has since undergone several changes.

A building committee was established in 2019 and transitioned in March 2020 to the incorporated not-for-profit entity now known as ICCE Inc. The original ICCE steering committee no longer exists, and Jones and Laliberte are no longer involved.

The current board consists of nine directors, including a representative from the provincial government and others involved in the curling community, such as 1981 Brier champ Mark Olson, Arnold Asham — founder of Asham Curling Supplies — and Gimli’s Olympic ice-making expert, Hans Wuthrich.

CBC has requested comment from chair Alfred Schleier.

Curl Manitoba, the organization responsible for curling in the province of Manitoba, has deferred questions to the province.

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