Arts & Life
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This article was published 10/9/2018 (669 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Los Angeles has its Hollywood sign in the hills above the city.
And, for a brief time, Winnipeg had one, too. Near the top of the city's highest hill -- at what is officially named Westview Park -- a big, bold sign in capital letters proudly proclaiming it "Garbage Hill."
"It's fabulous," Winnipeg painter, writer, curator and champion of public art Cliff Eyland said Monday morning.
"This seems perfect for Garbage Hill. Garbage Hill is important to people. It's a Winnipeg landmark."
However, by mid-afternoon Monday, as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone. Removed by City of Winnipeg parks staff because it "was not installed with the city’s approval," a civic spokeswoman said.
The sign wasn't nearly as big as the Hollywood sign, with its 13.4-metre-tall letters, but, for Winnipeg, it was pretty grand.
"I think it should be bigger," said Eyland, who is known for his paintings, drawings, and notes in an index card format. He first saw a photo of the Garbage Hill sign circulating on social media, but didn't know the identity of the artist who created it.
The sign was made out of wood with a Styrofoam core, and moored in post holes dug into the east-facing side of Westview Park above the roadway. The bright white sign against the dull green hill was visible from blocks away.
"I'm supportive of public art and it looks like someone really creative (made it)." –Coun. Scott Gillingham
"It's nice," said Rodante Garcia, who first noticed the sign Friday, during his daily hike up the hill in Winnipeg's West End.
It was a nice surprise, said the city councillor for the area.
"My initial reaction is: it's kind of fun," said Scott Gillingham, who represents St. James-Brooklands-Weston.
"I'm supportive of public art and it looks like someone really creative (made it). Someone's taken the Hollywood sign and gotten creative... I have referred to it as Westview Park, but I call it Garbage Hill, usually," he said. "That's what most residents call it."
However -- foreshadowing the parks staff's quick response -- Gillingham said he didn't know if the City of Winnipeg would be OK with it.
"I don't know if it's had any approval from the city," Gillingham said, adding he expected the appropriate civic department to take a look at it to make sure there aren't any safety concerns about the sign and its location.
By 3 p.m., the sign had been removed.
Hours earlier, Eyland said he hoped it would remain, as public art.
"I think it would be very sad. The idea has already been planted in people's heads," he said, comparing the Garbage Hill sign to the Hollywood sign. "It became iconic."
On Tuesday morning, Mayor Brian Bowman tweeted support for the sign.
Long live Garbage Hill. Our Hollywood mountain on the prairies. I’m with Winnipeggers who want the Garbage Hill sign back provided City processes are respected.— Mayor Brian Bowman (@Mayor_Bowman) September 11, 2018
The Hollywood sign (originally Hollywoodland) was built in 1923 to advertise real estate development.
The ad campaign ended but the sign stayed, having become an enduring symbol for Los Angeles and a tourist attraction. The Hollywood sign captured people's hearts and imaginations and the essence of a place.
Before becoming a city park, the area was operated as Westview Hill landfill from 1875 to 1948, and contained primarily ash and glass from the old garbage incinerator on Henry Avenue.
It was described in Guy Maddin's internationally acclaimed film My Winnipeg as the only piece of elevated land in the city -- a former garbage dump covered in sod and converted to a park in 1960. The freezing and thawing, the mythical film said, sometimes heaved up jagged objects such as car fenders, posing a threat to toboganners.
"Winnipeg is a nightmare, but it's our nightmare," joked Eyland.
The park -- bordered by Saskatchewan Avenue, Empress Street, Wellington Avenue and the railway lines along its eastern edge -- is a year-round, multi-use area popular for tobogganing, cycling, running, walking and as an off-leash dog area.
"I'm glad to see the name glorified in it," said Brandi Martens, who walks by with her dog every day. "That's its true name."
A Hollywood-esque sign proclaiming its proper Westview Park name wouldn't work, artistically, said Eyland.
"You've got to do the vernacular thing. You've got to call it by what people call it," he said. "It's a lot of fun."
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Updated on Monday, September 10, 2018 at 6:44 PM CDT: Updated
September 11, 2018 at 8:49 AM: Adds tweet from mayor