The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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555 Ellice Avenue (1)    Location Map
  

Mike Valcourt's Millenium Multicultural Mural. Each wall is 65 feet long and 18 feet high. It is Winnipeg's only Drive- through Mural! It is also one of an elite but growing number of walls that is well illuminated for night viewing.


Location: N side Ellice & McMicken; East and West Face and overhead

Occupant: Ellice Place

District: West End

Neighbourhood: Spence

Artist(s): Mike Valcourt

Year: 2000

Sponsors: West End BIZ

 

Mike Valcourt: "I was approached by Take Pride Winnipeg and the West End BIZ to come down to do a proposal for the wall. Harry Bergman (the executive director of the West End BIZ at the time) envisioned all of Ellice Avenue adorned with Murals celebrating our multi-ethnicity. For this millennium Mural, he wanted to incorporate as many nationalities as he could. To make it a manageable number, we finalized it down to four countries: Poland, Ukraine, India, and the Philippines."

"The original design and idea was just to paint the opposing goals in the tunnel and that was it. About halfway through the design, I incorporated the ceiling as well. I figured 'why not' because painting the flags of the four countries on the ceiling helped tie the Mural together. I actually taped the designs of the flags onto the ceiling. I wanted to put the Canadian flag on the wall as the binding fabric, labelling them as Canadian; what sets them each apart are their ethnic backgrounds. I selected elements from their respective cultures which make each of them unique and put it up against the backdrop of the Canadian flag."

"The woman of Indian descent on the wall is unveiling herself (photo 2). You can see her face and it's very striking you can see it from very far away. I tried to be as close to photo-realism as I've ever been, the highlights and shadows on the faces and more of a three-dimensional look. The eyes really grab you; I was really quite pleased with the result. The kid splish-splashing in the water having fun- I tried to use different colours in the water help it stand out a little more. India is surrounded by water, so that is one of the things I wanted to portray; the same as the Philippines so they both tie in together to both of their cultures. With the Philippines you have the fishing boat, as a whole fishing industry is very central to their culture. I included the islands school kids (photo 4), their camaraderie, and it also shows a little bit of their colours that they wear. Each individual school has its own colours and design so that just one of many. I used photo references from a couple travel magazines. I like the kids, too; they stand out really well. I took time to blend everything together with the faces."

"The geese (photo 3) came straight from a Poland brochure. There's nice countryside there, I liked the terrain. That little piece juts out onto the sidewalk, so I wanted that to draw attention; and I couldn't think of anything else that would draw attention better than a nature scene. I also want to overlap the little Polish girl with the scene. With the Polish girls, I wanted something that brought together the entire world. I thought of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola! It was my idea to incorporate the cans: one girl is drinking Coke and the other is drinking Pepsi. There was some resistance to this idea; but it's not meant as advertising at all, but rather the idea of coming together in peace and harmony. That's what I wanted." (Note: the Coke and Pepsi cans WERE eventually replaced, photo 5)

"For the Ukraine, I chose the Ukrainian dancers. I did something a little different with their arms I made it look as if they were moving. I made them vibrant, I made them glow a little bit: all to suggest quick motion and as if they were under the spotlight. I think there is the feel of the rhythm as well."

"This project took at least two months and went into late September. They didn't close the street off, so to get the ceiling done I had to drag the scaffolding right out into the middle and people had to go around me. It was cold! You get the wind ripping right through there. I made up stencils for the flags on the ceiling. The only projection I did was of the Canadian flag because I needed it to be perfect, especially all the points on the maple leaf."

"The response to the wall has been great. It really brightens up the place. Before they just an old grey walls, now it's a pleasure to drive through there. It's a drive-through Mural!"