Wall crawl Colourful, culturally significant murals can be found in almost every Winnipeg neighbourhood
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/01/2020 (1048 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Demolition of the Public Safety Building at 151 Princess St., began Tuesday. The building housed the Winnipeg Police Service headquarters until 2013, and the adjacent parking garage was home to a mural called Nibaa.
Mural themes in Winnipeg
Here’s a tally of the most — and least — popular themes of murals in the city:
Nature: more than 90
Louis Riel: 3
Giant bottles of alcohol: 2
Created in 2017 by prolific local muralist Mike Valcourt, Nibaa — which means “sleep” in Anishinaabemowin — was dedicated to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Valcourt was aware the building would be knocked down but chose to create the mural anyway, establishing a metaphor of disappearance within the piece.
Although Nibaa is now gone, more than 600 others remain in Winnipeg to view, according to the Murals of Winnipeg, a website run by mural enthusiast Bob Buchanan. His website has clocked more than a million hits since its launch on Nov. 2, 2003, and has documented 652 murals.
With that many pieces to see, it’s hard to know where to begin, but a good place to start is with a list of Winnipeg’s 10 most fascinating murals that best reflect the city and represent a variety of styles, themes and locations.
With the input of some local comedians, actors, students, radio hosts and members of the general public, here are just some of the most interesting murals in Winnipeg.
Murals created by students
Many schools in Winnipeg feature murals created by the student body, usually with the help of a professional artist. One of these murals can be found at Whyte Ridge Elementary School at 400 Scurfield Blvd.
The mural reflects the history of the Fort Whyte area and also depicts scenes from nature. It was made in 2013 by Whyte Ridge students in collaboration with muralist Annie Bergen, with sponsorship from the Manitoba Arts Council’s Artist in Schools program.
“I like how this mural is just a regular rectangle or square but seems to start breaking off at the top and becomes a part of the building.”
— Brigitte Plouffe, actor in III, currently playing at ShakespeareFest
“I see all the seasons here… except construction.”
— Kelly Hughes, host of The Ivory Tower on CKUW 95.9 FM radio
Abstract art murals
Although a majority of Winnipeg’s murals are done in a naturalistic style, the one at the Cozy Carpets building at 101 Salter St., was created in a unique abstract style in 2004 by Sherri Malazdrewich. It was sponsored by Neighbourhoods Alive and Take Pride Winnipeg and uses colours reminiscent of a sunrise to create an evocative display.
“This piece seems to mirror the sky. Earth-bound colours and jagged shapes dancing together to mimic the sky as the sun rises or sets. It’s a neat image set against a somewhat industrial-looking building.”
— Lindsay Johnson, actor in III
A mosaic is a piece of art made from the assemblage of materials. Westdale School at 6270 Betsworth Ave., in Charleswood is home to one of the most beautiful mosaics in the city, a nature scene created in 2018 by Ursula Neufeld of Ursula Neufeld Mosaics.
“There’s something about a mural featuring a deer and some birch trees that make you feel at place in Manitoba.”
— Jeremiah Yarmie, Winnipegger
“The way the eyes stare at you is unnerving in the best way.”
— Ben Robertson, acting student at the University of Winnipeg
Winnipeg’s oldest mural
Winnipeg’s oldest mural is located at 2579 Portage Ave., on the Mode Leather building.
The history of the mural — depicting a lanky hobo embarking on the “long tramp” to Portage La Prairie — goes all the way back to the 1930s, possibly earlier, and commemorates the journey of travellers heading west through Winnipeg. While the original artist is unknown, the mural has been restored many times: by Leslie Charles Smith in the 1950s, Harry Schimke in 1977 and Alfred Widmer in 1994.
“This seems to speak to a neighbourhood of days gone by.”
“I kind of love this one because it’s so legit. Makes me think of old postcards.”
Murals commemorating war
This mural located at the Royal Canadian Legion Transcona Branch 7 at 117 Regent Ave. E., immortalizes the lives of veterans of Transcona, telling the story of their daily lives in Winnipeg and their lives during the war. The mural was created in 2005 by Charlie Johnston and was sponsored by the City of Winnipeg.
“The bright blue colour pops and jumps out at you… (It’s) almost as if the memory of these fallen soldiers is still clinging to the building.”
Murals documenting Winnipeg’s history
This mural reflects the history of the city’s North End and is visible on the back of Chochy’s Pawn & Swap Shop at 409 Selkirk Ave. Created by Dwayne Ball in 2008, the mural contains Victorian-style portraits of the people who founded this area of the city.
“The pink background is a really interesting choice. It definitely draws the eye in, more so than the images themselves.”
“This piece feels like it’s inviting me to take a closer look, to open up a photo album and ask questions of the family and friends providing the photos.”
“Only one woman? She must have been exhausted.”
— Carole Cunningham, comedian
Murals created by community groups
Pal’s Supermarket at 619 Broadway features a depiction of a medicine wheel.
Created in 2012 by Ojibwe artist Jackie Traverse in collaboration with youth from not-for-profit community art centre Art City, the mural was sponsored by Urban Shaman Gallery and features the seven grandfather teachings of Anishinaabe culture: love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility and truth.
“Unique and beautiful. The quilt theme is really effective.”
“I love the patchwork and illustrations utilized in this mural. It’s colourful and vibrant and demands your attention to detail. There seem to be multiple stories intersecting.”
Murals celebrating healing
This mural at 782 Main St., titled Mending, depicts a woman in a poncho — representing a unity of First Nations and the First Peoples of the Americas — sewing up a broken heart. Created in 2016 by Clandestinos (Shalak Attack and Bruno Smoky), this mural can be found on the side of the Vineyard Church.
“This is great. It always makes me think of Nobel-winning Guatemalan Rigoberta Menchu, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be her.”
“A lot of great details you might miss upon first look.”
Murals celebrating local arts and culture
This Osborne Village mural at 445 River Ave. welcomes you to the Gas Station Arts Centre. Created in 2013 by Sarah Collard of Collard Creations, the mural features a plethora of Winnipeg artists, including comedian Big Daddy Tazz, improv company Outside Joke and NAfro dance.
“Vibrant, intense, bold. Like the work that often goes on inside the building.”
“I wonder if people know this used to be the site of an actual gas station?”
The Elmwood Curling Club at 300 Brazier St., is home to this mural by Dorothy Streilein and Lindi Hildebrande. Sponsored by Take Pride Winnipeg, General Paint and Wyatt Rentals, the mural was created in 1997 and features three smaller murals that reflect the history of one of Canada’s favourite sports.
“I love the minimalist style of this mural. The white background with the stark lines and simple colours makes it really stand out.”
“Curling! The only sport where you can smoke and drink while playing.”
“Beautiful, thoughtful and represents something dear to many Manitobans.”
To learn more about Winnipeg’s murals, visit themuralsofwinnipeg.com.
Frances Koncan (she/her) is a writer, theatre director, and failed musician of mixed Anishinaabe and Slovene descent. Originally from Couchiching First Nation, she is now based in Treaty 1 Territory right here in Winnipeg, Manitoba.