Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/6/2011 (3450 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When audience members arrive at Rainbow Stage tonight for the opening of Cats, they'll see a creek flowing under the box-office windows and enter an inviting forest as they pass through the theatre doors.
The drab concrete entrance of the domed theatre at Kildonan Park and the long, undulating concrete wall that flanks it are being transformed by a vibrant mural.
At 8,000 square feet, it's one of the largest outdoor artworks in Winnipeg. When completed, it will boast 400 colours of latex paint.
Seasoned outdoor artists Mandy van Leeuwen and Michel Saint Hilaire started it on June 1 and are working on it full time, aiming to finish for the Aug. 4 opening of Hairspray, Rainbow's other musical this season.
The project was set in motion by general manager Julie Eccles, who joined Rainbow last year. She thought the bland grey wall didn't do justice to the theatrical magic created inside since 1955, nor to the verdant beauty of the park.
"This building houses such a fantastic product, yet it really had no personality," she says.
A $25,000 grant from the Lord Selkirk-West Kildonan Land Dedication Reserve and private donations funded the mural. Though it's only one-third finished, "the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive," says executive producer Ken Peter.
Eccles suggested the theme of an enchanted forest, using images of the park's natural assets. The artists added huge masked faces near the entrance to suggest theatrical magic and mystery.
Van Leeuwen, 31, and Saint Hilaire, 39, whose previous projects include the Harry Lehotsky tribute mural in the West End and the tropical-house murals at the zoo, have never tackled a single project as large as this one.
When completed, it will include the park's much-loved Witch's Hut, a female spirit with a garden for a dress, and lots of greenery and flowers.
There's already a massive black crow that seems to be flying into the theatre. A fanciful pink ribbon that starts around a masked figure's neck swirls along the wall, as if enticing the visitor to follow. White orbs that echo the globe lights above the box office float in the scenescape.
Seen from the road between the theatre and the Red River, or by theatre-goers approaching on foot, the mural creates excitement and anticipation. "It's made to affect you from far away," says Saint Hilaire.
Unlike many mural artists who use a projection system to position the design on the wall for tracing, these two use the organic method of drawing free-hand. They say it produces a more artistic image, which is particularly appropriate for an artistic venue.
"We have a mental grid system," says van Leeuwen.
Eccles is so delighted with the blossoming mural that she hopes to secure funding to liven up the interior walls on a Rainbow-history theme.
More improvements are coming to the open-air theatre. The city is slated to spend $1.65 million on refurbishing the stage in 2016.