The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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555 Ellice Avenue (3)    Location Map

'Memories of Ellice Avenue'

Location: NW corner Ellice & Langside; East Face

Occupant: Ellice Place

District: West End

Neighbourhood: Spence

Artist(s): Sara Wilde

Year: 2014

Sponsors: West End BIZ, Manitoba Housing, Province of Manitoba, HRSDC Summer Career Placement


Artist Sara Wilde provided us with this delightful commentary:

This Mural was created as part of the Mural Mentorship Program with the West End BIZ (West End Business Improvement Zone). The Mural Mentorship Program is a unique, award-winning program which offers local youth aged 8-17 the opportunity to participate in a public art project. Through this they will learn painting skills, learn how to work as a team on a Mural design, and will feel proud to contribute to a finished Mural that will be enjoyed by the community for years to come.

My experience as the Mural Mentor this summer was wonderful. I had so much fun working with the kids and found it so rewarding in so many different ways. Being able to teach kids painting skills, while working as a team and seeing how proud and accomplished they felt afterwards was amazing. I had 190 kids come out to paint with me, so it got a bit hectic at times but it was always a lot of fun.

The overall composition of the Mural is in the form of a water ripple, which for me has always represented a sense of introspection as well as the notion of cause and effect. I was inspired to use this configuration as I felt it connected strongly with the theme of memory as well as; the effect that overland flooding had on this street in the past and the effect that the people have had throughout its history on the development of this area.

The more research I did the more apparent it became that no matter what time in this area`s history you look back at it has always been the people and organizations here who made the West End what it is. It was those individuals' efforts that inspired me to keep all of the children running through the Mural in full colour: to represent that unchanging spirit.

Each section of the Mural was inspired by a different story from the street:

At the center of the ripples there is an Island, from an account in the 1880s: every spring the area around Maryland and Ellice Avenue would flood, forming an Island that the locals took to calling ``Cat Island`` on account of its saucer-like shape. Because nothing could be done with this land it was left vacant, making it the perfect place for kids to claim as their own. During recess and after school kids would wade or canoe out to the Island to play. I thought this was the coolest story, it just sounded like so much fun! In that vein of thought it make me think of how similar the kids back then were to kids today, no matter how much the world has changed around us that sense of play and imagination is always present.

At the far right I have featured Fort Ellice- the Hudson's Bay Company Fort that gave the street its current name. I found an artist`s rendering of the Fort from around the time it was built in 1831 and one of the things that really struck me about it was how there was absolutely nothing around it. The Fort itself stood closer to the Saskatchewan border but it is reminiscent of a time not very long ago when Winnipeg as we know was itself a collection of small communities/towns surrounded by expansive field and farmland just like this.

To the left of the Fort Ellice panel is a scene from the corner of Ellice and Sherbrook where a water-pump used to stand. People from the area would go there to collect water and in the winter they would even collect water in barrels to make their own ice rinks - a tremendously time consuming task to be sure. As `Buster` Thordarson recalled in the ``Romance of the Falcons`` (a memoir of the great hockey team`s history), there was an old man with a big white beard who would go to the pump daily on a sled pulled by his huge Saint Bernard. He would break off any accumulated ice with an axe and then fill his barrel before heading back off on his sleigh. I was very taken with the quirkiness of this story as well as the throwback to a time when running water wasn`t always a regular household convenience.

Beside the water pump panel is the original St. Matthews church building on the corner of Ellice Avenue and Sherbrook Street. It was built in 1908 and still stands there today, though to us it is now known as the West End Cultural Centre. Ownership of the building passed between several groups over the years but the one thing that remained constant over its 106 years long legacy; was that this building has always been a place for people to congregate and socialize and celebrate their community.

Flowing through the three panels to the right of Cat Island I have included a sort of evolution of the modes of transportation that were seen on Ellice Avenue. From a horse drawn carriage modelled after an old bread wagon to a street car, then a modern day car which is a 1987 Pontiac Bonneville chosen because it was the most popular car the year the West End Cultural Centre took possession of its current building. This street has lived to see all of these advances in our city which I think is pretty amazing. You will also see a street sign crossing between the water pump and St. Matthews panels; as the name was changed officially in 1881 from Nellie Street to Ellice Avenue.

Passing over to the far left hand side of the Mural we are moving into the more recent past with a homage to the Cinemas, Cafes and Convenience stores that have operated all down Ellice Avenue. Most people you ask will be able to tell you about the place they went as a child to get candy, for many people in the West End those stores existed on Ellice Avenue. These businesses serve as an important part of the community; bringing people together in our shared love of good food, quality entertainment and friendly atmospheres.

It was so much fun creating this Mural with the youth the West End is truly an area of diverse and conscientious people, and to have so many children involved in creating this Mural I feel underscores that meaning so much more. It is my hope that is stands as a symbol of the extensive and colourful history of the street as well as a reminder of the continuing efforts being made in the community to beautify the area and keep it a great place to live.