Saturday May 7th was the first day of Jane’s Walk weekend 2011. It proved to be a spectacular day for walking with warm, sunny, weather until the late afternoon. The evening walks got progressively rainy from Cemetery drizzle to a midnight down-pour in the Heritage neighbourhood.
I was happily able to attend at least part of all six walks on Saturday. What follows are my thoughts about the 2011 addition of Jane’s Walks Regina!
The first walk of the weekend was ‘Our Past is Our Future’ guided by Audrey Price of the Regina Wearhouse Business Improvement District. The walk focused on features and histories the many heritage buildings in the area. There was also discussion of future plans and initiatives to build on activity in the Wearhouse District.
The Wood Vallance Building (above) was one example of the many renovated, re-imagined spaces once again finding tenants. We entered the building, to look at the completed renovations and the business (Cutting Crew Family Hairstyling) operating inside. Renovations can be difficult with heritage concerns in materials and limited budgets. Often there is a conflict between less expensive short-term fixes and pricey but more beneficial long-term products for building features like windows.
In relation to one of my favourite Jane Jacobs’ ideas, Audrey mentioned how crucial it is to have old buildings as entry-level space for new businesses. One reason that the Wearhouse District has been home to such a variety of enterprises is precisely the variety (in both type and quality) of buildings for start-ups.
Going forward, the Warehouse District intends to beautify the area with flower planters and continue the street lamp banners. The most exciting opportunity for area businesses and residents is the prospect of redevelopment along Dewdney Avenue. Creating better connections through the CP yards into Downtown is a major priority for Audrey as the development process progresses.
The second walk was through the former Germantown, just East of Downtown Regina, now Heritage Neighbourhood. The tour took us inside many religious and cultural institutions representing the many different cultures who have lived in ‘Germantown.’ Indoor tours included the Chinese Cultural Society, German Canadian Society Harmonie (below) Oskar’s Deli, Core Christian Centre, Trinity Lutheran Church, former Hebrew Funeral home which is now the Fada Dance studio and the Victoria Club.
All these places had interesting stories, architecture and play important roles in the community. But to focus on one, St. Basil’s Ukrainian Catholic Church (below) home to lovely, colourful mosaics. The exterior was fairly unassuming but as we made our way inside the impressive carvings and mosaics came into view. Much of the woodwork and art was completed in the mid 90s by skilled workers from the Ukraine.
The church is different from most Ukrainian Catholic churches in Europe where there are no pews and parishioners stand. The pews prove to be a disconnection for recent immigrants, though, apparently, in time everyone likes to sit.
The Heritage neighbourhood was also home to the last walk of the evening, a silent midnight stroll through the parks, streets and alleys near the German Club. Walk leader Dennie Fornwald hoped walkers would try meditative walking; which, in part, involved matching steps with breathing, keeping a clear mind, staying in the here and now, visualizing steps and not speaking.
It was a very wet night. The group, about 10 people, got underway from the busy German club heading North to Sask Dr.
I was surprised with how uncomfortable I was at first: I just didn’t know what pace to keep, where to put my arms or how to orientated myself in the group. My uncertainty ended in a moment where I just stopped mid stride from putting my foot down on a big, undulating, pink worm. The sidewalks and streets with front yard access were full of worms, exposed on the glistening wet pavement. For a good few blocks I avoided crushing worms.
In time the worms subsided and I tried to find a step-breathing rhythm. I was able to get a 4 beat step worked out, but I found the breathing tough to coordinate. Just as that rhythm was becoming ingrained and a very relaxed state was coming on, the walk was over.
The group had a discussion about their individual experiences. Surprisingly people hadn’t even noticed the worms! And I, apparently, missed some fake grass somewhere and the comments or gestures of some passers-by. Others focused on the windows of homes, variations in architecture and the noise of birds in the trees or rain on umbrellas.
The success of the silent walk was providing a group for safety so people didn’t have to be self-conscious. Walking alone can be a stressful and anxious experience. Walking alone in a group, however, proves very effective in removing anxiety allowing one to open up to their environment.
I was so relaxed, the idea re-entering the busy German Club wasn’t appealing and so I continued on home with some rhythmic cycling.
Sandwiched between Heritage walks were two Downtown and one at Regina Cemetery.
Victoria Park Architectural tour with Bernie Flaman was already under way when I met up with it at the Regina Public Library. I really appreciated this walk last year in much nastier weather. In this year’s lovely conditions it was great to hear about Sask Power Building’s Brazilian Modernist roots, the description of the Dunlop Art Gallery as a drawer placed into the side of the Library and, best of all, the streamlined features of the Federal Building.
Selene Deschenes also returned this year with her walk Flickers, Talkies and Black Tents. The walk started with a point to ponder about lighting and street safety. Would the marques along Sask Dr. make the street feel walkable, welcoming and safe? Did we lose something since electric signage has become considered undesirable, electronic vampire clutter?
We made a grand discovery when one walker showed the group remnants of the tiled entrance way to the Metropolitan Theatre on 11th and Broad. For me, that little strip of forgotten tile was a more exciting discovery than the mosaic map of Madaba.
Flickers is a walk that can, through my love of going to movies, transform familiar streets and buildings into the sound of distant premiers and smell of grocery-bag-fulls from outdoor popcorn stands.
Oh, yeah, I also walked around with Amy and we spoke about Regina Cemetery.
I want to thank everyone for coming out on our jaunt, sharing your stories, asking questions, running off and exploring and sticking through the rain. We had a great group. Special shout-out to Kat for taking snaps for us! Most of all I want to thank Amy for having me along, I learned so much more about Cemeteries than I ever thought I would.