by Margaret Banka
In the last few years, Winnipeg has seen an increase in the number of multi-purpose or collaborative ventures – think Forth, The Good Will Social Club, Little Sister Coffee Maker South Osbourne, and Prep Collective to name a few examples. These types of arrangements echo rather loudly the environment typically seen amongst artists and their studio spaces – besides the obvious economic advantages that come with sharing one roof, a multi-conceptual approach to how we use space can also yield considerable synergetic results.
For Colin of node.594, space can be part of the equation rather than just a passive container or creation. Housed in the former Neon Factory at 594 Main Street, the alternative venue has been gaining ground since October 2018. Though the name is short, it conveys a strong vision: “The name was happened upon by a mispronunciation of another word that lead to the breakthrough realization that nodes are pretty ubiquitous in a lot of fields from technology to biology to trades, and since it refers basically to a single point of connection between lines or pathways, it seemed incredibly fitting with what the goal of the space is in itself.”
The absence of structured functionality delivers the greatest potential for forging those connections; when I enter the node, the front of the space is gloriously empty, hinting at the unlimited ways it can be used. This versatility, notes Colin, is appreciated by the node’s patrons: “People like that you can change the space up – it keeps them guessing. It can look different every time.” He points out that each room has been used at different times by musicians with their gear set-up, or by artists to exhibit their work. We walk through three rooms, which gradually shrink in size the further back we go. Each is filled with the textbook Edwardian charm that is characteristic of Winnipeg’s Exchange District: high ceilings covered with ornate tiles, creaky hardwood floors, and brick walls exposed throughout. The basement is sprawling (and possibly haunted).
A musician himself, Colin’s jam space is currently set up in the backroom and his bandmate, Evan, plays while we talk. Colin is keen to enable musicians to meet and work by holding laidback sessions – think ‘90s coffeehouse, but with the improvisation and collaborative spirit of a FolkFest workshop: “I’d like to start a little series – I’m working on it right now – called Big Open Door, where we just have bands come in to do an hour-long set in front of the open door.” Working with the large garage door at the front of the node, which can be fully opened, Colin plans to bring in a pop-up table for coffee, or something similar, that can be served to spectators. He doesn’t worry about the unruly rep that neighborhood sometimes gets, but rather embraces it. “You can either shy away or just go in and try to be a catalyst for exposing the area. I think a venue would do great in this spot – it’s in an up-and-coming area with a big door.”
Being located in an artistically central neighborhood (The Edge Gallery and MAWA are across the street, and there are a couple of art studios on the floors above the node), making those connections has been an important part of the node’s role in the area: “We’ve done a couple First Fridays so far. I like to do cross-promotion and contact some people in the area, to say, ‘you know, why don’t we try to get on each other platforms’”.
Opening a space and putting out programming idea is just one part of Colin’s journey with node.594: “I’ve wanted a venue ever since I was a kid. I just said it would be cool to have a space where I could see all these people meet each other and stuff like that.“ Since day one, Colin has had the full support and encouragement from girlfriend Zephyra Vun, or Zeph, as well as the instrumental assistance of friend Matty Dirks, and he continues to plan the next step. “What I’d like to do is have this space fully licensed for whatever purpose – so I could have an occupancy that would allow for liquor license or body modification. That way people can come up to me and I can say, ‘what do you want to do?’ And we could do it.”