Each year, we lose some good outdoor art in Winnipeg. For the year indicated, here's a last look at, a last goodbye to some of the artwork that has disappeared that year.


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1854 Portage Avenue (1)   

This wall commemorates the memory of the last Ox Train out of St. James and also out of Portage in 1880. It was painted by Jennifer Johnson in 1999, with sponsorship by Take Pride Winnipeg, Glidden Paint and St. James Village BIZ. In 2020 the Mural was painted over with a new Mural by the same artist, 21 years later. Original notes follow: ===

“Why oh why did my first commission have to be right on Portage Avenue?!” groans Jennifer Johnson. Although we assure her that we feel it’s a fine Mural and she admits she’s received praise for it, like most professional artists she is critical of her earliest work. “That was my introduction to painting. It's not something that I would put in my current portfolio!”

Jennifer: “This one was very intimidating I'd never painted with latex before. My first concept for this was very different but the reason it turned out this way is because they'd given me an actual photo of the last Ox train out of Portage in 1880. And the photo was very choppy and it was black-and-white there wasn't a lot of life in it. I'd like to think I've evolved with use of colours since then; I don't use quite as much brown anymore. It was a project I did just before I went to Australia. I really enjoyed it and doing something different. Next-door there is a funeral home and the director would come out and chat with us once in awhile. The thing that bugs me about this one is that the top of the T. Garland Building was supposed to go the other way- that's why it looks off.”

John Steel (St. James BIZ): “That is an actual photo from Manitoba Archives. At one time the Oxen Train traveled from Winnipeg to Edmonton. It was a mud road and that's how they transported goods and services and people- by ox cart. It went from Fort Garry to Fort Edmonton. It's been called the Portage Trail, the Edmonton Trail and by a couple of other names. We wanted to get an actual photo of the ox train going through St. James but none could be found. The only one we could get is this one in Portage: the last train to leave Winnipeg for Fort Edmonton. Now we were modern and sophisticated and the railroads took over! They say that Portage Avenue is this wide as is it today because back when the ox trains ran they would run in a wide path to avoid the ruts. It's incredible now to think about it now that people hauled goods 900 miles across the country.”

This site holds some fond memories for Johnson. For one thing, it’s where she got to know her present day dear friend and business partner, Mandy van Leeuwen; (photo 2) who at the time was Mural Coordinator for Take Pride Winnipeg. Jennifer: “I was very impressed with her, she wasn't full of herself she was very humble. And I really enjoyed working with her. Mandy had a lot of good ideas for this one like the trees in the background were not there in the original and the grass along the side of the building, was added just to give it a bit more life. Mandy and I painted the rest of the building as a side job. We made $400 for one day's work! We were ecstatic. I actually found out much later that my husband, David who works as a painter had actually bid on that same wall. I didn't know him back then. He had bid $300 more!”

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