The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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600 Main Street    Location Map
  

'Bears on Main Street'
Ian August's winning design for Mural Fest 2K7.


Location: E side Main bet. Logan & Rupert; North Face

Occupant: Full House Grocery

District: City Centre

Neighbourhood: China Town

Artist(s): Ian August

Year: 2007

Sponsors: Mural Fest 2K7, Graffiti Art Programming

 

In February of 2007, Ian August submitted the following synopsis in support of his "Bears on Main Street" semi-finalist stage submission to the Mural Fest 2K7 competition.

"The premise for Bears on Main Street is that global warming has altered climate conditions in the Canadian north to the degree that the polar bears have to move south in search of a new way of life. A natural place for these itinerant polar bears to end up is Winnipeg's Main Street. The Mural will depict a typical view of Winnipeg's Main Street strip with polar bears as the primary inhabitants. The polar bears will be milling about outside homeless shelters, standing in line at soup kitchens and bringing old tools to pawnshops."

"With this Mural I am attempting to use humour to put forth a couple of very serious and urgent issues: issues that are pertinent to both Winnipeg and the global community. The first issue is climate change due to global warming, and the affect it is having on one of the Arctic's most recognizable inhabitants, the polar bear. The state of housing and homelessness in Winnipeg is also addressed though the not un-realistic depiction of the fate that might befall a down-on-their-luck recent arrival to Winnipeg. The humour stems from the project's similarity to the Bears on Broadway campaign; the comical stereotype of Canada that suggests polar bears can be found roaming city streets lined with igloos and Mounties (igloos and Mounties will not appear in the mural); and the simple fact that the bears will be walking around no their hind legs doing people things (which has been proven to be cause enough for a chortle)."

"The Mural is intended to address the connections between the average citizens of Winnipeg, the downtown core, the north, and the global crisis climate change, and I think it will resonate with Winnipeggers because of the accessibility of the imagery. It uses familiar scenery and recognizable characters in a humorous way that allows for multiple interpretations. Because of this and my strong feeling towards the issues raised, I believe Bears on Main Street to be a worthwhile project."

Following Mural Fest 2K7, Ian provided me with additional commentary:

"I was living in Banff, and I had heard about Mural Fest 2007. I liked what they did the year before; and it was a good opportunity to do the biggest Mural I've done to date. All of the usual costs to do a wall of that size- the equipment, skyjacks, paint, were all taken care of (by Mural Fest). I was pleased that not only was I chosen, but my good friend Cyrus Smith was also chosen. His site was right across the street so we could communicate with walkie-talkies while we worked. We would often arrange to be at our respective walls at the same times."

"The Mural scene is centered around the Bell Hotel on the East side of Main. The building beside it (vacant) exists as well in the Mural, but I put a new sign on it, took the plywood off the window and turned it into a Pawn Shop. Its address is 666 Main Street! The owner of the Bell owns that one too, and when they were selling it, they came together as a package. They actually sold it during the run of the Mural, and a lot of people who lived in the Bell would come by and say 'it's been sold-looks like we're all out of there and they're tearing it down- looks like the Mural is going to last longer than the Bell."

"The Mural still has the global warming angle with the Bears coming in, but it turned out to be more community based with all of the characters in the neighbourhood, portrayed as Bears. It's nice too that when you drive down the street inbound you see the scene in real life and then a block later when you come to the light at Logan you can look at the Mural and recognize it."

"I did take the one Bear in foreground from the original maquette and stood it up by the street scratching his back on the sign pole. I didn't intend for him to come to be viewed as 'Hooker Bear' but that's an interesting interpretation. That's Bling Bling Bear in the upper window. I chose Bears with character that I thought would be good on Main Street. Like Biker Bear working at the Pawn Shop! Then you've got a Hydro Bear going in- maybe he's going to pawn his drill in there!"

"This group over here (at left) is just kind of hanging out. That's one of my favourite parts- I think there were something like 9 Aurora Bearealis' (probably because it's such a great play on words), so I wanted to have a big group of them here! There's another bear out at the curb. The Jets Bear I put in there just to mix things up a little. The sidewalk strips weave back and forth just as they do on Main in real life. I did take some artistic liberty with the red border (in actual case the border is red yellow white and black). Standing that one Bear up was partly a composition point as this whole area had turned into a blank space with all the action in the top two-thirds; so to activate that space I stood him up."

"I had never projected before (see photos 3 & 4). It went very well. Andy (Bart) was a big help. He also came back on one or a couple of other occasions to help. He did the melamine table and coffee cup in the hotel window scene. As much as I enjoyed the experience, the coverage and the recognition, what was difficult was that it was such a narrow time frame and there was so much painting to be done, relative to anything I'd experienced before. So I HAD to treat it like a job. Sometimes when you're painting in the studio and you don't feel the vibe, you can stop and wait for inspiration. Here I didn't have that luxury, so I painted every day until it was done."

"The 38 degree heat was hard, when you know everybody else is at the beach. Because it's a North facing wall, I was in the shade from 11 am on, but it was still hot! 38 is still 38, especially when you're wearing a respirator and rubber gloves. It was so hot for most of the month, but the last week was finally bear-a-ble! That's when I was putting in the 12 and 14 hour days."

"I bought a lot of pots and pans at a second hand store, and I would mix my paint right in the pot- it's got the handle right on there- and use the pan like a palette. I also mixed some colours on the wall. It was similar to oil painting. The colours were great and that's why I did it so colourful, much more colourful than in the original maquette. Why take such beautiful bright vibrant colours and muddy them up? The Mural is more 3-D with more shadowing than the maquette, too."

I've heard absolutely no negative comments from anyone on this Mural. Overall it was a very satisfying experience."