The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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470 Selkirk Avenue    Location Map

Establishing shot of Jackson Beardy's "Peace and Harmony" Murals. The original Murals were rendered in 1985 the year following Beardy's death. They have since been restored/repainted twice, most recently in 2006. This is a photo of the restored 2006 walls.

Location: SE corner Selkirk & Powers; North & West Face

Occupant: Indigenous Family Centre

District: North End

Neighbourhood: William Whyte

Artist(s): Jackson Beardy (rendered posthumously by Jerry Johnson's Graphics Art Class at R.B. Russell)

Year: 1985

Painters: Barbara Nagy, Paul Grant, Ray Knott, Emily Amos, Dennis Boulanger, Alvin Schaan, Sid Dixon, Mary Ann Roussin, Laura Skead, Leo Neilson, Robert Perrault, Garnet Chartrand, Martin King, Marilyn Price, Robert Sullivan, Mathew Kronin, Randy Lagimodiere


2006 Update: (Please read the original notes on these Murals below) In 2006, the Jackson Beardy Peace and Harmony Murals, originally rendered upon the Selkirk and Powers faces of the Indian Family Centre were restored to their original mint condition from when they were originally rendered 21 years earlier by The Graphics Arts Class at R. B. Russell. Two of the original students of that class, Sweetpea (Leo Neilson) and Emily Amos (photo 5) reunited to lead in this team effort which also involved kids from William Whyte School. The artists worked under the direction of the Centre's Director, Jeanet Sybenga.

Jeanet: "With the wall on Selkirk, the stucco was in such bad condition (primarily from the road salt getting splashed up on the wall). So first it all got ripped down and re- stuccoed because it was crumbling. We power washed the wall first, and when we were spraying it the stucco all started coming off. So we decided that it had to totally be redone."

What was planned as a 3 week project ended up taking most of the summer. The Powers wall was in fairly good shape, but the Mural was repainted and touched up over the old one. They took the Jackson Beardy prints to Cloverdale Paint, who matched up the original colours as closely as possible.

A celebration ceremony held October 12, 2006 in honour of the Murals restoration was very well attended, and included several members of Jackson Beardy's family. Jeanet: "These Murals were designed to reflect what this place is about: peace and harmony, and that whole thing of bringing people together- people of different backgrounds, different spiritual beliefs to work together towards Peace and Harmony. That's our vision here, and I think it's significant that these Murals reflect what we strive to be."

Original notes:

Winnipeg is fortunate in having the distinction of featuring the artwork of renowned Anishinaabe Artist Jackson Beardy on the walls of the Indian Family Centre at the corner of Selkirk and Powers. It is one of Winnipeg's earliest Mural sites and still exists today.

Jackson Beardy was born on the Garden Hill Reserve in Island Lake, Manitoba in 1944. He studied art at the Winnipeg Technical Vocational High School and later at the University of Manitoba. While only in his 20's he began to struggle with episodes of serious illness, suffering with ulcers and a heart condition.

Beardy's extremely personal art drew on his deep knowledge of aboriginal traditions and legends and study of his Cree heritage. His work embraces ideas of the cosmos and the spiritual. Recurring elements in his works include the ideas of the interdependence of all things; the balances of nature; the relationship between human spirit and the animals/environment; and life force, the cycle of life, and regeneration.

In 1972, he was awarded the Canadian Centennial Medal. That same year he joined with six other First Nations artists to form what came to be known as the "Woodlands Group of Seven." In the early 80's, Beardy served as art advisor and cultural consultant for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and balanced service as activist in several associations with numerous commissions.

In September of 1984 following his stint in Northern Affairs, he returned to Winnipeg and rendered the artistic designs for his Peace and Harmony Murals we see today. He dedicated these designs to the Indian Family Centre because his parents were intimately related to the Centre. The Murals were executed as was his wish, but were done posthumously after his untimely death in December 1984. They were unveiled at a ceremony on September 5, 1985 by Manitoba's Lt-Governor Pearl McGonical, a personal admirer of Jackson Beardy.

On the North Face (photo 2) we can see a highly abstract representation of a human figure (via bands of warm colours swooping up from the bottom left, eventually narrowing to emphasize the right arm and hand) offering up a lit peace pipe to an unseen figure, presumably the figure on the west wall (photo 3). Traditionally the ceremony involving the peace pipe was never entered into lightly, and served to cement the relationship between these peoples. The markings on the peace pipe (photo 2) are Anishinaabe; whereas the adornment of the figure holding the pipe that has been offered (photo 3) is Sioux, a traditional enemy of the Anishinaabe. The ideas of peace and harmony, therefore, may not be fully appreciated in the absence of discord. A peaceful, harmonious state is much more profound when there has been some strife previously. The peace pipe itself also symbolizes and relates to the four elements. The bowl can be said to symbolize the earth and water that make the clay the bowl is made of; and the air and fire elements are needed to smoke the substance in the peace pipe. The human "head" is a representation of the sun and a reminder to us that we as the highest form of creation are alive and vitalized due to our interrelationship with the sun. The black lines radiating from it symbolize the life-giving forces of the sun. The lines are black to remind us of the periods of absence of light; the alternating patterns of day and night, light and dark; and that we need both. Day gives way to night, summer to winter, life to death; there is an order of things, it is purposeful, and it is good.

Whereas as The North wall celebrates peace and harmony between peoples, the West face (photo 3) emphasizes the communion between human and nature and the spirit world. This figure is commuting with nature. The pipe is a simile of the interrelationship between things in nature. The bowl is of the mineral realm, the feathers are from the birds/animals realm, the wood of the pipe is of the vegetable realm, and the pipe's user/maker is from the human realm.

The human figure symbolically connects to the animal world via these layers of mask- like animal or bird forms that form his head and face. To the left of the figure is a blue moon sphere, which is said to represent the grandmother in Anishinaabe customs. The grandmother is important in that she nurtures, teaches and watches out for the growing children (the blue dots below the moon). Most of the offspring are normal, and follow normal paths (the symmetry of the pattern of the dots) but sometimes there is an atypical child (the starfish shape amongst the other dots). The grandmother will watch these "odd" ones particularly, became they are the children who grow to become the innovators of new ideas and practices. Perhaps the starfish figure is a representation of the creative innovator, like Beardy himself!

Henk DeBruyn
Indian Family Centre
Notes of Professor Kenneth James Hughes
Internet research