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

"Begin Where You Are. Go Forward. One Step At A Time"


Location: N side bet. Andrews & McGregor; Rear (South) Face

Occupant: Elizabeth Fry Society

District: North End

Neighbourhood: William Whyte

Artist(s): Crossing Communities Art Project

Year: 2004

Sponsors: Neighbourhoods Alive! (Manitoba), Take Pride Winnipeg!

Painters: Project coordinator: Edith Regier. Mural mentors: Pat Aylesworth, Jackie Traverse. Lettering: Debbie Fisher. Mentees: women and their children of the Crossing Communities Art Project

 

Edith Regier (Founder, Crossing Communities Art Project): "Crossing Communities Art Project are local artists who make art with women who are marginalized by social and justice issues. These women have either been in conflict with the law, been in prison, on conditional sentencing, or are at risk of offending due to their past history of poverty or violence. We started out at the Portage Correctional Institution making art there for three years. In 1999, we set up as a community-based studio."

"All the artists who work here as mentors are career artists. Some of the women who worked on the Mural have been part of the program for several years now. We have been partnering with Elizabeth Fry for years, so when they asked us to do this Mural we said sure! Neighbourhoods Alive were a great help in providing funding, as were Take Pride Winnipeg who power washed the wall for us. The way the project was set up was that I would mentor two women (Pat Aylesworth, Jackie Traverse) and they in turn would be Mural mentors to a larger group of women and children."

Pat Aylesworth: "When I heard that Edith was starting an Art Project for women, I jumped at the chance of being a part of it. At the time I knew I needed more interaction with people at a community level, because I found that I was lacking that kind of support. It was Crossing Communities that gave me the tools such as having a safe place to meet other women with similar experiences, allowing a free flow of expression through art, and giving us voice. With the tools it also gave me materials I needed to build a bridge back into society, such as the workshops with artists, the group trips to art shows and galleries and having our own exhibitions. It was my involvement with Crossing Communities and Edith's encouragement to further myself in art that led me to apply to the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba. I am now in my second year (as of 2005)."

"In 2004, Edith asked Jackie Traverse and myself if we would mentor the women of Crossing Communities Art Project for this Mural project. This was an exciting opportunity that I could not pass up because I had no experience in Mural painting but had a great interest in learning what was involved with working on such a large scale. Edith helped Jackie and I come up with a design but not without some frustration because we had different ideas. Through meetings and much discussion we were able to incorporate our ideas into the final design. Winnipeg Mural artist Jennifer Johnson showed us how to project our design onto the wall so we could draw it out. Once that was done we were ready to paint."

Edith: "What we came up with was a design that incorporates modern traditions of art together with native traditions (of art). We were looking at the history of art, and also aboriginal art from various cultures. Pat is from Papua, New Guinea. So the bird at the upper right is the Bird of Paradise, reflective of her culture. The small bird at the upper left corner is from a painting by Emily Carr which Pat also painted. And the bird in the middle is painted in a Canadian aboriginal style. The three birds are a covering of cultures. The tree is from Stocletfrieze (Life Tree), a painting by an Austrian painter, Gustav Klimt. We got a lot of comments about those white horses that were stenciled on- people walking by would tell us that this was different from Murals they had seen and made them think about things. The horses could represent hope, or the future. People would come by and talk to us about what these things meant to them. I personally see this scene as being about the land and the prairie landscape and the farming element. Someone else might see it differently!"

Pat: "Choosing paints for the Mural was a real task, because there are so many colours to choose from, from the different blues to the different browns and everything in between. We chose our paints, but with the paint selection we found out very fast that paint in the can is not paint on the wall and sometimes to get the right balance there has to be some paint mixing."

"We painted all the areas of the wall that could not be reached from the ground. Our mentees, the women from Crossing Communities Art Project, came out on a few occasions with us to paint the lower portion of the 65-foot wall. We even had the kids in the area come out to paint with moms in tow. Our question to the mentees was to paint something that made them feel good about home or something to remind them of home. One mentee painted a monkey swinging on a tree branch because she liked monkeys and trees and both were things she enjoyed. Another painted her church because it was a good place for her and like a home. One woman drew a dumpster; that was her choice and she did it so beautifully and lovingly. Before they painted and while they painted we answered questions they had and helped them with choosing colours, mixing paints and painting techniques."

"Many of our visitors were kids who were curious and had tons of questions, and they would hang around and watch or come by to see if anything new had been painted on the Mural. An eight-year-old girl was very keen on hanging out with us on a daily basis and she became known as our 'little buddy'. She would tell us about her visits to her Auntie's in Manitou, playing on the trampoline, and going swimming. She drew and coloured the stories and showed some of her artwork to us and often talked about her wanting to be an artist. When the kids came out to paint, she did too. She painted her Auntie's house with the trampoline in front of it and signed her name by it. It was very nice and she was quite happy about it."

Edith: "We worked at the Mural site in June July and August, 2 1/2 months in all. The days were either long and hot or rainy! People would come by every day and make comments and let us know that they were happy to have it there. Debbie Fisher did the lettering and she did it freehand- she has an incredibly steady hand. And the style and use of the various hues of green to represent the farmland and rolling hills came straight from Pat's head."

Pat: "Debbie's lettering and the words bring it all together. I was thinking about the landscape, and I love the colour green. I tend to draw toward earth colours in everything I do. The Bird of Paradise is something I think about all the time as a symbol of home. It's the national bird of New Guinea. For the Emily Carr bird I would have liked to have put more detail into it. I was up on the third level of scaffolding. The scaffolding had to come down for safety reasons."

"We got really good comments from the kids who came around to watch us; that they liked it and that it was different than others in the area. It was very enjoyable. It also made me reflect back on the journey that brought me here. The area it was in made me a bit uncomfortable at times because this is the area were I got into a lot of trouble. But it made me stronger, and made me realize that I could do something to give back to this community. It's a positive scene that others can enjoy and perhaps even be motivated by."

"I think the whole idea was to get people engaged with making something that was going to speak to people. The tree symbolizes life and growth as well as being just a neat design for a tree to look at. The birds are free. The white horse in the hills is there as a result of the wish and dream of an Elizabeth Fry staff member. The nature of the dream is a secret, but suffice it to say that the horse represents the future. We actually stenciled in seven white horses in all I think."

"Looking back at it I think that for me the Mural project was another bridge built. The making of this brought a lot of people together. We had fun, smiled, laughed and really connected. I learned a lot through this project, about being mentored, mentoring and bridging community. It made a difference for me. My hope is that it does the same for others."