1880 Alexander Avenue
The completed wall as it looked in 2000. Photo courtesy of Diane & Dennis Bell. It was jointly sponsored by Take Pride Winnipeg and Lewis Art Supplies. Due to severe erosion, the wall was painted over in the spring of 2005.
Original notes follow:
Diane Bell: "This building was used for the Keewatin Community Youth Project that was
funded through Manitoba Justice. I ran this program in this building, which was donated
by the city of Winnipeg. The project involved intervention programming for at risk kids
for joining street gangs and also for the other street kids in the community. When the
program started we had two or three kids a day; by the end of the project we were getting
125 kids a day! . I ran both morning and evening programs. It was engaging and
popular with the kids and quite successful, I think."
Dennis Bell: "Diane ran a drop-in center for gang and street kids in the building at this
site and was coordinator for that program. I did workshops in clay, and drawing and
painting with the kids and we did an inside Mural of a cat looking through glass at the
"I contacted Take Pride Winnipeg and asked to a Mural there with the street kids. This
one was to become our first outdoor Mural and the beginning of a very good relationship
with Take Pride Winnipeg. I worked for four weeks on different ideas and the kids'
input. Some of the kids were having difficulty developing a theme, so finally I had to
take it into hand as time was running out and we had to get the wall done. I decided that
we would do the four seasons. I drew up the faces, and as we went we actually built the
landscape as we were painting. For fall, I wanted it to be very aboriginal in appearance.
For winter, I noticed the print ads that one of the tire companies used to entice people to
come and get their tires changed: that face of the old man blowing a chilling wind. It was
the image of that wizard-type face that I wanted. For spring I wanted a young girl's face
with all that foliage. And of course summer I wanted the beating hot sun and the brilliant
rays. That's how the Mural evolved. It was all freehand. I built the landscape first, and
then the four figures representing the seasons were painted afterwards."
Diane: "We drew up commitment contracts for the kids to sign that worked on the wall.
The mural project was actually very consistent with a lot of the programming for the
Youth Project overall: teaching them the consistency of taking pride in their community,
themselves, working on their self-esteem. I ran an anger management program; and
designed other programs specifically for this group, teaching them job skills (keeping in
mind that some of the kids were old enough that they would never be returning to
school), making resumes, and creating jobs in the community to give them experience,
and getting them used to the idea of going out there and promoting themselves."
Dennis: "While painting the Mural we had some pretty tight rules with the kids because
one day they showed up the next day they didn't or would just lay around, so we
instituted a deduction of say $25 if they didn't show up to work. They actually all
enjoyed it and learned an awful lot. Brooklands was just thrilled with the result. Some of
the elders in the area would walk by and compliment us. I couldn't believe the response
from the people in the area. It's mostly renters there and high transient. All kinds of
people in the neighbourhood would come out to the wall and talk to us and stand around.
They all seem to be so thrilled that something like this was happening in the area. It was
a real joy to do. We worked eight days on the wall."
"The cliff of rocks in the middle is rather eye-catching. One of the kids who had taken a
fair bit of art in school worked on this, and then I came in and helped him shade it and get
the reflection in the water."
"Sadly, there has been considerable peeling of the wall years after the completion of the
wall (photo 3). The wall WAS prepped. I think the problem was that it was old stucco
building and they had put whitewashes on it and the chalk came up. Remember this is an
older building. The chalk came up and the primer set on the chalk, and we painted in the
hot sun with fairly vibrant dark colours and they dried quickly and built a skin, but
underneath was still wet. It didn't cure the way the paint should've cured. Perhaps a
water blasting would've helped clear that chalk off. The wall is not that old and it's been
damaged; I've looked at a couple of times to see if there was anything we could do to
mend it, but anything I could do after the fact now would only look like a touchup and
not natural. At some point I'd like to see the whole wall redone because it's such a
beautiful long wall and it's not an outrageous height!"
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