The revitalization of the Exchange District, biennial as catalyst

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Garbo, Louisa
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The Exchange District, once a vital part of Winnipeg's industrial district, has been struggling with disinvestment due largely to the shift from manufacturing-based to the service- and technologically-based economy in the city. This process of deindustrialization has transformed the warehouse structures in the Exchange District, to the point where they have become obsolete and no longer economically viable. Despite efforts from all three levels of government to rejuvenate the Exchange District, the process has been very slow and, to a large extent, unnoticeable. However, over the years, the area has been transforming slowly into an arts district. This thesis examines the importance of arts in urban life in general, and in Winnipeg's Exchange District in particular, through the proposal of a 'biennial' (a bi-annual international art exhibition) that might act as catalyst in this area's transformation into an artist village/center. Case studies of biennials in cities such as Newcastle upon Tyne in England, Kassel in Germany, and Venice in Italy are compared with respect to the social and economic impacts they have on the cities. Interviews with key players in Winnipeg such as planners, architects, cultural workers and stakeholders on the topic of a hypothetical biennial focused on the potential social, cultural and economic impacts of a biennial in order to address the central question of whether a biennial might be beneficial to the Exchange District and, by extension, to the City of Winnipeg. Highlighted are a number of recommendations, if a formal proposal for a biennial in the Exchange District were to be developed.