The Exchange at 40

Regina’s essential arts and music org hits a major milestone, with many more to come

Cover | by Stephen Whitworth

Darrol Hofmeister, Sharpshooter Photography

Saskatchewan Cultural Exchange Anniversary Party
Andino Suns
The Exchange
Saturday 14

When you turn 40 you’re supposed to slow down. After all, you’re old now. Energy is harder to find than it used to be, but that’s the least of it. You forget things. You can’t hold your liquor. Your body beanbags. You sweat in showers.

Weird hairs sprout. You smell like fish and butter. I could go on. But I won’t. The reality of aging is well-known.

But for some, that reality is different.

Meet the Exchange, the happy, scrappy and beloved arts organization located in Regina’s warehouse district. At 40 years young, the Exchange has most of its energy, enthusiasm and big ideas ahead of it.

Regina wouldn’t have it any other way.

Maximum Music

The Exchange is probably best known as a medium-small concert venue that’s hosted some of the greatest shows to come through Regina in the past 40 years. Put your stadium love on hold: It was The Exchange that brought us Modest Mouse, The New Pornographers, Ron Sexsmith, Jason Collett and Zeus, July Talk, The Pack A.D. and countless more.

It’s also been the top venue for local talent, and over the years has been a home to acts like Despistado, Rah Rah, Library Voices, The Dead South and even burgeoning star Andy Shauf (look for his Nov. 18 show). It’s hard to imagine those local acts developing without a stage like the Exchange’s.

Anyone with any interest whatsoever in live music has rocked out in the Exchange. I remember design-punk powerhouse The Famines melting my ears in a club-side show that probably violated structural building codes. I saw Owen Pallett, the man who gave Arcade Fire their strings, play under his old moniker, Final Fantasy. I saw The Handsome Furs touring their amazing third album, Sound Kapital, just a few months before they broke up, both as a band and a married couple. That still might be my all-time favourite live show (and I’ve seen Cory Hart twice!).

The Exchange isn’t just about music, of course. It’s a venue for art and artists, as well as a centre for arts programming. It hosts the long-running Pass The Hat comedy night. It’s a great place for fundraisers — I’ll never forget Mike Burn’s One Hour Artinizing events, where local artists and a few posers (ahem) painted 60-minute masterpieces that were auctioned-off for charity.

Tragedy & Terror

It hasn’t all been good times at the Exchange, of course. Any life at 40 has seen its share of sorrow. Most memorably awful might be the 2010 flood that wiped out the building’s basement, and the artist and practice spaces in it (not to mention a lot of musician’s instruments). The survival of the venue was genuinely in question, but our community came through with support both moral and financial.

Nearly 20 years earlier the organization’s rented facility burned down, an event which led the Exchange to its current location.

Once in a while an outside promoter books a crappy American band with a vile name which leads to epic levels of obnoxious and stupid drama that we’re all going to pretend never happened.

In 2007 the NDP government announced a massive hike to arts funding in a press conference at the Exchange. A few months later they lost the election to the Saskatchewan Party. Le sigh.

But for the most part, the good times keep rolling as the Exchange rocks on as an essential part of Regina’s cultural and music landscape.

Here’s to the next 40! ❧

The Exchange’s anniversary celebrations continue through the fall with great concerts and other events. For full details, visit culturalexchange.ca and keep an eye on our listings!

Stephen Whitworth is the editor of Prairie Dog. He’s joking about 40 being old. He’d better be, since he’s 50 and that’s much worse.