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Creative Manitoba is celebrating our 20th anniversary! To highlight our history and excitement about continuing to support Manitoba’s arts community, we spoke with community members who have made a particularly special mark throughout our past twenty years. These are their stories.

Ashley Bieniarz

While studying classical piano at the University of Manitoba, Desautels Faculty of Music, Ashley Bieniarz started to interview local artists. 

“It was a really incredible program, but I knew I wouldn’t enter the classical world and try to be a solo concerto performing pianist. So I needed to start developing my skills in something that was more appealing to me, which was the art pop industry and releasing my own music.”

She was looking for insight into the industry, an insider scoop on touring and general advice on what it’s like to be an artist. It was 2015, and these hour-long conversations with musicians evolved into the Winnipeg Music Project, a weekly podcast and CJUM 101.5 FM radio show. 

During one of those interviews, her friend and fellow musician Raine Hamilton introduced Bieniarz to Creative Manitoba. She began taking workshops focused on topics like business planning, grant writing and networking and participated in two youth mentorships.

“It was definitely a boost in confidence. You get to see the other side of this ideal of what a songwriter is or what an industry person is. You realize that they’re just a real person, and you get to understand the work-life balance of these people.”

Today, Bieniarz is an avant-pop musician focused on songwriting, a little bit of production and a lot of performing. With a hired team and a national focus, Bieniarz also rebranded her podcast into Songsmiths in 2021.

It was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award and she recently glammed up in Toronto to receive the inaugural 2023 Women in Music Honour Roll award. This will be her first year releasing recorded music. 

Bieniarz’s relationship with Creative Manitoba is also evolving. In the upcoming Exchange: Arts Incubator, she’s going to be the one instructing emerging artists on navigating their creative careers. The program includes a co-working space where senior cohort leaders like Bieniarz pass on their industry knowledge and experiences.

“It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest. It’s very flattering and it’s really exciting. Especially during this conversation, I see how much Creative Manitoba has influenced and helped me grow as an artist but also a mentor. By providing a space that is so open and welcoming, it encourages you to want to do the same.”

Amanda Emms is a freelance writer and activist living in Winnipeg, Treaty 1 territory. Her work includes collaborations with art organizations, non-profits, public health and media outlets. The library is her favourite space.

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