The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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471 McMillan Avenue    Location Map

Location: west of Osborne; Rear (West) Face; visible from Gertrude

Occupant: Mitchell Welding

District: Fort Rouge

Neighbourhood: McMillan

Artist(s): Dennis Bell, Diane Bell

Year: 2004

Sponsors: City of Winnipeg, Take Pride Winnipeg!, Gladstone School


Dennis Bell: "The entire wall that the Mural is on is 15 feet high and 80 feet long. When we were first approached about painting a Mural, I did a design of flamingos in a winter scene! I thought it would be an interesting contradiction and the kids at Gladstone Elementary School would enjoy it. Take Pride Winnipeg liked my idea, but when it was presented to Gladstone School, they preferred to have something with an education theme. So then I worked on another rendering, with a grandfatherly figure amongst some children. I then received feedback that a female figure would be preferred; a grandmother like image."

"We also thought that a FEMALE figure on this wall might also more easily elicit those nurturing qualities of a gardener, another theme happening in the Mural. But we were thinking that if we're going to use the image of female teacher, that we should use Enid who was a real teacher."

"Diane I talked about it. Her friend, Enid Cousins, was of the first in Manitoba to work with special needs children; and she won the Queen's Silver Jubilee award for her work. Diane used to breed Russian Wolfhounds and Enid decided to buy one and they've been friends ever since. That was over 25 years ago. Enid agreed to let us use her likeness provided that we included her cat, Ming, who she also got from us when she was a wee kitten. That's Ming at the lower left corner."

Diane Bell: "Dennis went out and took some pictures of Enid for photo reference, and he and I collaborated on what types of images would be interesting in the composition. I had met Enid 30 years ago. She had been diagnosed with osteoporosis and was looking for a dog that she could take walking with her. She had seen one of my dogs at the Canadian Kennel Club. Enid is a schoolteacher who worked in Transcona for several years, and is the woman who started the special needs program in the high school for those who were dyslexic, ADD, ADHD, or otherwise mentally challenged or who showed learning or behaviour problems. They were sent to her and she would work with them. She changed the approach of working with the students and there was never a student that she couldn't reach. Principals and counsellors from other schools would come to her. She also educated other professionals on methods of working with such students, including several schools in the States."

Dennis: "We've agreed to and are hoping to do four Murals along this wall pertaining to education. This is the first one and it measures 12' by 20'. This one is around agriculture and science themes. We start with a seed and go through its growth cycle. I wanted it to look like a backyard so I put in the picket fence. And I love that heavy green of summer- the rich foliage and I think it worked very well with the sun-drenched yard. Even though it's in the background it seems to jump right out of the wall. At the last minute I decided on a pitchfork just to break up that band of white."

"The girl watering the plants is Marit Robinson; who is a full-grown adult now- she's an archaeologist now and the daughter of really good friends of ours who were also dog breeders. It's from a photo that we have. The boy with the hands in his pockets is actually based on an image on one of our coffee cups (Ed. Note: Dennis and Diane then show me the mug). There's something about this child that stayed with me. Sometimes an image sticks in your head and you can't let go of it until you've completely exhausted its inspiration."

Diane: "It was very enjoyable working at the wall. The sidewalk was close and made it easy to roll our stuff in. There's a wading pool there and there were always children and people walking by. The pool staff were wonderful and there was water there and a bathroom; and the company there let us store our paint there."