The Bata Shoe Museum’s Juno Sole exhibit celebrates 40 years of the JUNO Awards

This morning, the Bata Shoe Museum on Bloor Street West kicked off a year-long exhibition of footwear from some of Canada’s most successful music artists to celebrate the JUNOS turning 40.

As the third instalment in a series of festivities creating early hype for the awards at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on March 27, 2011, the Bata Shoe Museum promoted JUNO Sole: Celebrating 40 Years of the JUNO Awards, solely via social media platforms – Twitter walls and Facebook trivia contests (bloggers were even invited to the media preview yesterday night for the very first time). Strangely enough, no advertising was involved. commemorate

But JUNO Sole has already attracted 140 visitors in the first two hours of its opening.

“We want to generate a more youthful demographic for a museum with an average audience of 35-plus,” says Nicole Cahill, marketing and public relations coordinator at the Bata Shoe Museum. “If you want to increase your traffic, you have to bring in different age groups.”

This collaboration between the Bata Shoe Museum and The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) features bands and solo artists alike, both old and new – Paul Anka, Canada’s first heartthrob teen idol, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain, Nelly Furtado, Diana Krall, and Geddy Lee, to name just a few.

High-top sneakers worn by Shania Twain in several performances and on loan to the Bata Shoe Museum from the Shania Twain Center in Timmins, Ont.
Photo from batashoemuseum.ca

Shoes worn by Paul Anka, Canada’s first heartthrob teen idol. He won a JUNO Award in 1975, the year he hosted the broadcast.
Photo from batashoemuseum.ca

As the Bata Shoe Museum really wanted to blend music and culture, each exhibit in the Star Turns Gallery has a target that jumps out at the visitor: arts and culture vs. music and fashion. Cahill describes it as being very Canadiana.

With a JUNO hype reel video and a red listening station playing 46 songs on three iPads – one from each artist, she is confident that this 861 square foot exhibit will appeal to the technology-savvy youth.

At the same time, exhibition manager Sarah Beam-Borg, assistant curator at the Bata Shoe Museum, acknowledges the setbacks of this project with candour. Their deadline of Sept. 15 to receive footwear slipped right up until last Friday, when they received their last pair of shoes – K-OS’ frazzled brown lace-ups, which they picked up from his house.

“There was a lot of initial enthusiasm surrounding this project, but it was hard to get people to send shoes in,” says Beam-Borg.

For example, Corey Hart, a well-respected Canadian musician, who rose to fame in 1983 with “Sunglasses at Night” – the first single off his debut album, First Offense, was really keen to be a part of it, but he lives in Barbados, so it never came to fruition.

Mrs. Sonja Bata, founding chairman of the Bata Shoe Museum, also wrote a letter to Neil Young, but he declined.

Beam-Borg wished Neil Young, along with Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette, had been a part of the exhibit to show how successful Canadian artists can be.  “But you don’t need to be chart topping.”

The Bata Shoe Museum had no luck with them, but did succeed in acquiring a total of 46 entities of shoes from a wish list of 40.

The line-up includes Shania Twain’s high-top sneakers; Tom Cochrane’s cowboy boots; Jim Cuddy’s frayed black ankle boots; Drake’s New Balance sneakers; Anne Murray’s bright orange Reeboks; Michael Bublé’s sleek black dress shoes; Lights’ painted white sneakers – from her “Second Go” music video; Bryan Adams’ big clunker black boots; Avril Lavigne’s autographed Converse sneakers – worn only in her music video for “Sk8er Boi” and are, therefore, very clean; and many others.

“A couple of students from this morning criticized Lavigne for buying a brand new pair of shoes just for this exhibit, which is a misconception,” says Cahill. “We ask for shoes with significance.”

Visitors can even see the groove in the late Canadian jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson’s worn-out shoes.

“People don’t immediately think of shoes when they think of music, but everyone has shoes, so for visitors, it’s a meaningful way of connecting,” says Beam-Borg.

When the exhibition ends in Nov. 2011, artists will be given the opportunity to have their shoes back; 90 per cent of them are usually donated. The Bata Shoe Museum will choose to keep some on display, but the rest will be auctioned off for MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity associated with CARAS, which raises funds and awareness for music programs in public high schools.

Jennifer Cheng

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