600 Main Street
'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
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
"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 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."