The Distillery District on steroids

This is not a post on the spectacular new Daniels Spectrum (formerly the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre) but rather on the astonishing multiplicity of repurposed factory complexes I visited during my recent trip to Poland. The city of Łódź, in particular, is home to 27 (27!) former industrial sites now containing museums, cultural events, housing, businesses, university faculties – and the mind-boggling Manufaktura, the above mentioned pumped up shopping, entertainment, and cultural district.

Łódź used to be one of Europe’s largest centre for textile manufacturing, so the massive size and extent of its industrial architecture should be no surprise. Like the Distillery District, these are handsome buildings, beautifully designed for their purpose and made to last (notwithstanding the heavy bombing the city endured during the war.)

But a caveat. Despite these large urban renewal projects and the flourishing of film and cultural industries, Łódź is still distinctly economically depressed. Hundreds of thousands of people were laid off when the last of the factories finally closed – and not even the most vigorous film industry can make up for that kind of job loss.

I guess the moral of the story is that while the arts are often an essential part of neighbourhood revitalization, they depend upon as well as contribute to a healthy and diversified economy.

Also from Poland: it’s a small world, filled with Canadian artists. I had the pleasure of seeing Theresa Tova’s Bella: The Colour of Love during Warsaw’s impressive Singer Jewish Cultural Festival. Danny Grossman directed and choreographed, and Matt Herskowitz composed and accompanied this new musical based on the life of Bella Chagall, wife and muse to Marc Chagall. It was terrific, and backstage was filled with hugs and kisses and heart-felt congratulations to all.

And finally, following my post about the importance of settings and venues in performing arts experiences. Night fell on Kraków’s magnificent Old Town Square. There was a brief rain squall, followed by one of the most magical theatrical experiences of my life: a performance of The Blind, based on Saramago’s novel, by the 35-year old TeatrKTO. 12 magnificent movement artists; 12 hospital beds on wheels; a gust of silver and red confetti; never to be forgotten.

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