Painting the town
Winnipeg has undergone a public-art makeover, Jessica Botelho-Urbanski writes, gaining the city international interest while beautifying the streets with everything from snowy owls to wayward Waldos
As artistry spills from insulated studios to the city streets, the Manitoba capital is getting a fall makeover.
"Winnipeg, I think, holds its own on the world stage," says Bob Buchanan, a Halifax expat who's become enamoured of the local mural scene. He and his wife, Louise, have documented more than 600 pieces of street art on their website, themuralsofwinnipeg.com.
Their new favourites include works commissioned by Synonym Art Consultation, the brainchild of millennials Chloe Chafe and Andrew Eastman. The pair worked together at a bistro and bonded over wanting to bring art beyond gallery walls. Five years, 180 events and 20 murals later, they're now curating the fourth annual Wall-to-Wall Mural and Culture Festival, helping catapult the public-art scene to international attention.
Local and visiting artists are producing 13 Synonym murals this month in Winnipeg, beautifying swaths of West Broadway, the North End, the Exchange District and the Forks. Their eclectic ideas include a revamped Manitoba flag and poetry by author Katherena Vermette.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski is painting 11 Arctic animals on garage doors in her Wolseley back lane. She took neighbours' requests and is sketching polar bears, wolves, a narwhal, a snowy owl and a pod of belugas on their properties. Up next: a life-size whale on the pavement itself.
Winnipeg Waldo, a much tinier tagger, is keeping busy spurring a citywide scavenger hunt via Instagram. He pastes doodles of the British cartoon on buildings, bridges and cassette tapes placed in thrift shops.
"For a city that kind of claims it's an art-centred community, for a long time it was hard to tell when you walked down the streets. Everything was just grey and boring," Winnipeg Waldo says. "I personally have seen in the last year things really start to change."