1085 Winnipeg Avenue (2)
This whimsical wall was painted by Darlene 'Toots' Toews for Winnipeg Harvert in 2004; with sponsorship by the Cohen Family (Linda & James), the Oakes Family (Jean & Harold), Western Paint & Wallcovers Co. Ltd., Donner Paint, McNally Robinson and George Conway. The building was demolished in May of 2010 to make way for a newer modern facility for Winnipeg Harvest.
Original notes follow:
Artist Darlene 'Toots' Toews and Winnipeg Harvest founder Lee Newton have a long
history and friendship together. They both began work on the same day in the 1970's for
Eaton's advertising department and became friends through that. Years later they lived
together and also worked together at the Art Gallery. Darlene 'Toots' Toews: "When she
came across some articles that indicated that some people and kids were going without
food, she came up with this Winnipeg Harvest idea, and we, her friends, said that we
would support her and that's what we've been doing!"
Toots: "Because Winnipeg Harvest is about food, the kids and I decided that this should
be about a farm scenes and such where the food comes from. The kids came up with all
the different things they wanted, so I drew them and they painted them. It's strange how
kids on entirely different Mural projects come up with many of the same symbols: sheep,
fish pond, ladybugs caterpillars, a sun wearing sunglasses."
"Chad (Reeves) did the two eagles. I wanted him to be involved but I knew it wasn't his
style because it's kid stuff, so I got him to do the two eagles. It's pretty much done now.
The cows need eyelashes and the ducks aren't quite finished; Granny's gloves need
'stitches' on them."
"I liked this project: being able to work outside, working with the kids and that it was
about making the community more fun. And the big rule I had with the kids was that
when you wash your paintbrush you get a hug! And that worked! Some days I got 40
hugs from one kid! And it's about them feeling proud: they say 'I painted the
watermelon' or I painted the pig'!"
"I sketched all the artwork in at the beginning, and the kids did a lot of the painting at the
bottom of the wall where they could reach. The pigs are good but they started getting
more and more warped! The pig got painted 18 times until he started looking like an
aardvark! The older kids would paint things like the corn that goes higher on the wall. I
realized very soon that the kids didn't really want to paint the background so I did that.
Sometimes I would have to redo some of their work afterwards, but as far as we're
concerned it was their work; they did it. It's all about self-esteem, it's not about me. It's
about the kids feeling empowered and proud that they did something. And if you can
keep one kid off sniff or from joining a gang then you've done your job and it's worth it.
We are so blessed. Some of the kids who come here are so starved for affection and
haven't even had breakfast. The first thing I ask on Saturday mornings is 'did you have a
good week and did you have breakfast', and if not we get them something nutritious.
And I love it because I get lots of hugs."
The bonus interior Murals in the bread room (Photos 2 & 3) were really the brainchild of
Kenny, a greeter at Winnipeg Harvest. "I think Kenny has a direct line to the angels and
in a lot of ways is brighter than all of us. He was the one that said to me when I was out
painting one day when it was chilly and raining: 'you should come inside and paint it's
too cold out there'. I was so focused on finishing the outside wall that it was all I could
think about. Kenny's idea was simply brilliant."
To learn more about Winnipeg Harvest, visit their website at http://www.winnipegharvest.org/
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