Travel Swellness: Road tripping in a 2019 Buick Envision to Montreal

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I think the Buick slogan, “That’s a Buick” is pretty clever, because the brand has truly changed my (and I’m sure other people’s) perception of what a Buick is.

Thanks to Buick Canada, I had the opportunity to test drive a 2019 Buick Envision to Montreal in April. And I comfortably drove for 2.5 hours straight; this is the longest stint I’ve ever been behind the wheel ever since I started driving at the age of 18. And I felt comfortable (great ergonomic design), safe (thanks to features such as the heads up display making me aware of my speed and blind-spot detection system) and aesthetically, the car’s very sleek (appealing to my design sense — check out the dashboard in the photo below; and love the huge sunroof!) and the Envision we test drove was in the Galaxy Silver Metallic, which is the colour I would get the car in (although the Summit White is pretty hot, too). Oh, and the OnStar (which provides turn-by-turn navigation and if you know me at all, I have zero sense of direction) and 4G LTE WiFi hotspot (which I used aplenty when I was a passenger to catch up on work). And the car had Sirius and I was able to listen to all my faves:

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Plus there was plenty of space, both in terms of leg room (Billie Jean curled up in the floor area of the passenger side) and in the trunk (we drove back with several dozen bagels and loads of food that my mom cooked, and she cooked for days and days since she knew I had a car that I could load up).

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Even though I grew up in Montreal, it was great to have the Envision to try somethings I’d never done in my hometown. I got a chance to see the two apartments I lived in as a baby (which I’d never been back to before); we stopped for a sweet and creamy drink at Orange Julep (which I haven’t been to since I was a kid even though I have passed by it for years on the way downtown); and we hiked with Billie Jean on a trail I’ve never been to at Mount Royal, one just off of the observation deck area.

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Yep, that’s a Buick, and it’s a car I’d seriously consider when it comes time to get a car.

Thank you GM Canada for the test drive where I got to explore a bit of my childhood and discover new things to in the city I grew up in! I think Billie Jean enjoyed seeing where I came from!

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Leave a Comment June 4, 2019

Culture Swellness: Q&A with the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery Director, Gaetane Verna

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One of my goals this year was to attend more art and cultural events (especially here at home in Toronto, since I find I make the effort to when I’m traveling but am less inclined to do when here at home), so I’m super excited as I’m attending my very first Power Ball (disclosure: I’m attending as a media guest)! I’ve heard about this annual fundraiser for the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery for many years and am super excited to have the opportunity to go this year to the party.

To prep for the event and learn more about gallery and the fundraiser, I had the chance to have a little Q&A with Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery director, Gaetane Verna:

Can you share more about this year’s Power Ball theme?

For Power Ball: 21 Club, the entire gallery is being transformed into a secret speakeasy where guests will come into the shadows with us for a night of revelry and indulgence… immersive art experiences and performances by a diverse gathering of local and international artists, along with music and the best in food and cocktail–all for one (late) night only. I can hardly wait for it all to be revealed – there’s always a surprise at Power Ball.

What sets apart Power Ball from other galas?

Power Ball has grown into a highly-anticipated event, and as our annual fundraiser, makes it possible for us to present ground-breaking contemporary art from local and international artists, alongside a range of free programming open to all. We approach this event like we approach everything at The Power Plant: with artists as our priority and to keep artists at the centre of it all which means having their voice at every level of the institution: on our board, as members, as invited artists for our education programs.

The art installations each year, by a diverse gathering of artists are the starting point of all conversations, and the activations are woven into the fabric of the event to present a one-of-a-kind experience that reflects what Power Ball, and in turn, The Power Plant have become known for. We are proud of creating multilevel partnerships with many partners and sponsors, such as our Presenting Sponsor Holt Renfrew, who have demonstrated a commitment to contemporary art in Canada.

We welcome a dynamic audience a Power Ball largely in part by our artist package initiative, which includes pre-party tickets and a donation, which enables 10 artists to attend Power Ball and partake in the event, network with other artists and guests from the vibrant arts and culture scene of Toronto and beyond.

Is there an installation this year you’re personally excited about?

I’m not sure that I can pick just one! We will be presenting the work of a diverse group of local and international artists at this event. Toronto-based artist Max Streicher will present two of his Sleeping Giants (1998) on our South Terrace—these kinetic sculptures are inflated and animated by the force and movement of air. They are both playful and surreal, qualities that nicely compliment Power Ball. I’m also very much looking forward to seeing Mexican artist Chelsea Culprit’s commanding installation Tru Bruja (2018). In this work, Culprit plays around with the meaning of the word ‘witch’, critiquing its negative connotations while pointing to the powerful ways witchy women continue to disrupt social norms.

And because this year’s Power Ball theme takes as its starting point prohibition in the 1920s, a rich time in history for drag culture, we are engaging Toronto’s diverse LGBTQ community through a series of drag and burlesque performances curated by Tobaron Waxman of the Intergenerational LGBT Artist Residency. Carlotta Carlisle, Tynomi Banks, Drag King Flare, Gay Jesus and Dainty Smith and Imogen Quest of Les Femmes Fatales Burlesque will strut, sashay and strip their way across the stage, recalling the ‘pansy craze’ that evolved in New York City during the 1920s when people in LGBTQ communities performed in speakeasies around the world, sometimes for hundreds of devoted attendees.

During the Pre-Party, local artist-designer-restaurateur Sarah Keenlyside will take party-goers on a spectacular journey that combines food and performance. Keenlyside will present her work Centerpiece (2019), a reimagining of the dining experience where the background becomes the foreground. Performances in collaboration with Ace Dance Theatre will transport guests into a space that celebrates the glorious dance of service, all while they indulge in exquisite cuisine by Man Ray Bar à vin, Restaurant La Banane and CXBO Chocolates.

What do you say to people who say they don’t “get” contemporary art?

We ask that you give it a try, visit the exhibitions and spend time with the artist’s work. We welcome all feedback – whether it is positive or negative, as long as we have the opportunity to start a conversation. We have a team of Gallery Attendants ready to answer questions about the exhibitions, as well as a dynamic educational program where visitors can hear different perspectives from professionals of various backgrounds. The Power Plant offers free admission to all exhibitions and public programming, so visitors can spend time with the art and engage with the ideas presented by the artist in different ways.

You’ve been director since 2012…fave Power Ball memory?

Every Power Ball has its own set of vivid memories – we have managed to stay relevant for 21 years by keeping our finger on the pulse and presenting the best in contemporary art. For Power Ball’s 20th anniversary last year, we invited London-based design duo Bompas and Parr who created an immersive adult funland having guests enter the space on a slide, walk through a Spirit of York gin and tonic cloud, shoot at veggies with a crossbow and their signature glow in the dark spiked jellies. Every corner had a contemporary version of funfair.

My mission since starting at The Power Plant is to make The Power Plant accessible and welcome to all. Power Ball welcomes guests of all ages, backgrounds, and industries. This in turn directly supports The Power Plant in being accessible year-round and allows us to present programming that reaches many communities through our Power Kids, Power Youth programs amongst other initiatives.

Are you attending Power Ball: 21 Club? See you there!

 

 

Leave a Comment June 3, 2019

Travel Swellness: Testing performance with the 2019 Ford Edge ST

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“Karen, how would you like to try something terrifying?”

Okay, okay, that’s not what the invite read. In April, Ford Canada approached me with a fun challenge. They wanted to know if I was up for testing my performance through a fitness performance adventure such as rock climbing or trapeze, while also testing the performance of the 2019 Ford Edge ST. And, of course, I said yes (hello, have we just met, I love semi scary adventures, hahaha!).

My gut reaction was to try trapeze…but then I got kind of nervous as I thought about it some more (I don’t mind heights per se, but I don’t like the sensation of free falling or being upside down much) and thought “Oh, I’ll just do rock climbing.” But I’ve done rock climbing several times (in CEGEP I did several rock climbing gym intensives (when you could get your gym credit completed in one weekend, so convenient!), plus I’ve been climbing since then both out in nature and at climbing gyms). And I knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t push myself to try trapeze, so I decided to go for it. And then I had to think carefully about which friend would be up for this as well, and sure enough, my friend Amanda, who’s always up for just about anything, said she was game.

I drove us out to the trapeze class in Scarborough in the Ford Edge ST, and we were laughing on the way there because we knew the teacher would think we were a bunch of injured misfits who’d signed up for trapeze: Amanda was having knee surgery two days after our class, and I have a pinched nerve in my neck that’s been plaguing me with a sore shoulder for weeks. Not exactly peak performance mode for either of us! Also funny: we both had to google to confirm what trapeze actually is. We watched YouTube videos and fretted about actually being able to do it.

After some quick instruction, we were apparently good to go. Even just climbing the ladder up to the platform was nerve-wracking, but that was nothing compared to when they tell you to grab hold of the trapeze with one hand. It’s so taut that it feels like you’ll be pulled right off of the platform. I very much thought “I don’t know if I can do this!” I might have even said it out loud. I was doubting the decisions I’d made that lead me to be standing on this platform. Then, I grabbed it with my other hand when they said to and then (gulp) stepped off of the platform…

Whoosh! Once I was actually in the air it was less terrifying. I had a hard time hearing the instructions being shouted from the ground on my first try and didn’t quite understand when I was supposed to do what (with the first swing out is when you start to try to move the trapeze bar to behind your knees). I entirely missed it my first try, got closer the second try and by my third try I completed the movement! And I am entirely hooked. It was such an exhilarating feeling to be smoothly flying through the air, and also so satisfying to be able to complete the acrobatic move of moving your legs onto the bar, hanging down upside down and then moving your legs off of the bar to flip off of it. I only managed half of a flip off of it the whole class (I think my dismount is too slow, so I lose the momentum that’s necessary to do the flip).

I wholeheartedly recommend trying a trapeze class if you’ve ever been intrigued by it, I think you’ll love it. I hope to go back some day soon! Amanda and I still rave about it!

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We left the class totally high on adrenaline and piled back into the Ford Edge ST, and since we were so pumped, we got the ST’s 12 speaker B&O Premium Sound System by Bang & Olufsen going with some high-energy music to match our mood.

That was Friday night, and I used the car over the weekend, too, and took full advantage of having some wheels in the city and took it out several times each day. Since I was out and about a lot, having a fully charged phone is always an essential. And the Edge is the first car I’ve test drove with wireless phone charging. You just place your newer phone (like my Google Pixel 3) in the designated charging space, and your phone gets charged. No wires to fuss with. That is truly a life-changing feature, in my opinion.

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The Ford Edge features a dial to change from park to drive, and I think that’s a new design that would take some getting used to (I would always automatically go to look for a stick over the days I had the car) but I’m sure after a week, it’d become the norm. I did test the car’s performance once by hitting the S to put the car into sport mode. Now, I was only doing a slowish drive of the car on the Gardiner (thanks Toronto traffic), but I did sense that the car sort of stiffened up and was ready to GO, but driving in the city didn’t really allow me to do much with the feature, unfortunately. I should’ve planned a drive on a less busy country road to better test drive the 335 hp, 380 lb.-ft. of torque,  and the 2.7L V6 turbocharged EcoBoost engine (but I’d have had to bring a more car-savvy friend to help walk me through how those features were contributing to our drive, because short of a car having good ergonomics and visibility, and maybe how smoothly I feel it drives on a basic level, I am not, as I have mentioned before, super knowledgeable about those details; I assess cars more on comfort, safety and lifestyle features). The Ford Edge ST, by the way, is the first SUV from the Ford Performance Team.

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Always a bonus in a car is an sizable trunk, which I got full use out of by doing errands and picking up bulky grocery items (namely dog food and cat litter, those pets require lots of heavy lifting!). And I threw in more fitness fun with a hike at Dundas Peak in Hamilton, and a few foodie outings with friends (and driving with the Edge’s GPS is such a relief for someone like me with zero sense of direction; it got us to our destinations every time with no issues). The car also features Ford SYNC 3 AppLink with Waze, which we put to use when we ran into traffic on way to dinner on the weekend.

Oh, and the steering wheel in the Ford Edge ST is heated, which was fantastic when I test drove this vehicle because as you may know, it’s taken a very long time for spring temps to arrive in Toronto, and in fact, it snowed on the weekend I had the Edge ST and that heated steering wheel warmed up my frozen hands after a long hike. What an ultimate luxury, right? I think once you go heated steering wheel, you can’t go back.

The Ford Edge ST is both slick enough for urban life but rugged enough for those fitness-fueled outings, which is essentially how I live. Thank you Ford Canada for nudging me to try new things and the opportunity to put such a sweet ride to the test.

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Leave a Comment May 27, 2019

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