Article appeared in Lifestyles 55 (July, 2011)
Jean Giguère, former chair of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and well-known arts volunteer in Winnipeg, was given the very first Arts Volunteers of the Year award at the fifth annual Mayor’s Luncheon organized by the Winnipeg Arts Council June 9. The awards luncheon is held every June to recognize outstanding achievement in the arts field in Winnipeg.
Jean was the spark plug behind Culture Days, celebrated across Canada for the very first time in 2010. Because of Jean’s energy and advocacy, Winnipeg was the launching pad for Culture Days and the focal point for much of the media coverage. Culture Days is modeled on a Quebec program called Journées de la Culture, where the public is invited inside the arts community.
Jean Giguère has been a champion for Winnipeg and it cultural activities for many years. She has served on the board of the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Writers’ Trust, the Writers Festival, the United Way and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, to mention just a few of her involvements. She has also been chair of the National Arts Summit and is on the board of Business for the Arts.
But it was Culture Days that gave Jean her biggest leadership challenge. Starting from zero, she pulled together a diverse group of people to form a steering committee and got their commitment and involvement across Manitoba, while constantly ensuring that Manitoba got the lion’s share of the credit at the national level for leading the way to a successful launch of the program.
Jean has a natural affinity for energetic people and she enlisted the support of the indefatigable Crystal Kolt, the director of the Flin Flon Community Choir and the cultural co-ordinator of the Flin Flon Arts Council, to organize Northern Manitoba, ensuring that Culture Days was not just a Winnipeg phenomenon.
It would work best, Jean felt, if the Franco-Manitoban community was involved, and she quickly brought Sylviane Lanthier from the Centre culturel franco-manitobain; Sylviane helped obtain the seed funds to get Culture Days started. Then Jean went to work on the rest of the funding, found office space and hired a staff person to manage the program. This is noted to indicate the depth of endeavour that getting Culture Days off the ground locally required.
But nobody, knowing Jean Giguère, would be at all surprised. She is a down to earth, warm hearted woman who looks life right in the eye and tackles things head on. She is an adopted Winnipegger but one of the city’s most loyal and staunch supporters. Sports may have Mark Chipman as their champion, but Winnipeg has Jean. When told how lucky Winnipeg is to now have a new NHL franchise, she responded by saying that the NHL is lucky to have Winnipeg.
It goes without saying more that Winnipeg is lucky to have Jean Giguère.
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