The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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590 Ellice Avenue    Location Map

"Adam Beach On Location".
This Mural commemorates the career of Adam Beach, another famous Winnipeg West-Ender.

Location: SW corner Ellice & Sherbrook; West Face

Occupant: Sherbrook Food

District: West End

Neighbourhood: St. Matthews

Artist(s): Charlie Johnston (C5 Artworks)

Year: 2003

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


Charlie Johnston: "I actually picked the location myself! We were looking around at different spots. I didn't want his Mural to wind up on a low-key type of spot. He's a Hollywood actor! He needs to have a big spotlight and broadcast his image to his community. To me, that wall and that location seemed to be the perfect spot. It's only two blocks from where he grew up. That's why the signpost in the Mural has from Agnes and Ellice to Hollywood and Vine. He had been living on a reservation and he lost both his parents in separate accidents only months apart when he was just 2 years old; so he came to live on Agnes and Ellice with his uncle Chris who raised him. He did things like going to the theatre for young people plus he played baseball for the Orioles. I had some pictures of Adam Beach that his brother lent to us including playing baseball for the Orioles. That's why the youthful Adam Beach in the Mural is looking up towards his future, or he's like a memory of the past."

"In one day, I had about 50 different people say something to me while I was working there. Everybody recognized him, knew him or was related to him. So talk about a Mural that ties into the community! It was really powerful in that respect. Here's a person who comes from a hard background and yet, in our society's eyes, has really made it. He's an 'A' list aboriginal actor; he succeeded, he's made the big time and he comes back to his community and lends his time which is now more valuable than ever before; speaking to people in children in his previous community about life issues like drug abuse and solvent abuse."

"The role that really brought him stardom was 'Squanto: A Warrior's Tale', the Disney movie. So that's why the image of Squanto has that real marquee style in being that large. It's almost like he is the sky, a red sky. I wanted to have different levels of portraiture in it. I thought of the different portraits being the elements; I thought of different things while I was working on them. I didn't make it obvious, but more of a subtle thing. There's a figure of him, as himself, leaning against the pole, which becomes almost a totem pole or a signpost. It started off as a braid of feathers behind Squanto's ear in the marquee image; so it passes through those different phases. He has his arm around a ghostlike bear. He's a member of the bear clan, and his aboriginal name is Leading Bear Man. There's a bear spirit embracing him, and him embracing the bear spirit; it's kind of a good symbolism."

"The Windtalker portrait in the lower left corner- that was the movie he co- starred in with Nicolas Cage. That was a really good key plum role for him to get. It was a big Hollywood production and he was representing the Navajo tribe of code talkers in World War II. It was the one code that never got cracked, so it's probably one of the biggest ways that their people aided their country in World War II. The Navajos were consultants for the movie, so he had to audition not only for the Hollywood production company but also to the Navajos because he's not Navajo. The only reference image I had for the Windtalker portrait was from the maquette I did: I watched the movie and freeze-framed it to paint the image from the TV! The wind brings another Earth quality. It's a soft blue hazy touch, but I downplayed it. I could have made him really windy, and Squanto really like the sky but I didn't overemphasize that. It was more things I was thinking about while I was painting it rather than a literal translation to the image."

"At the other end is the director's chair with Adam Beach's name on it: to sit there and look back at the whole experience, and is a convenient way of identifying the subject of the Mural to its audience. This was a fairly short quick project. I dove right into it. Sometimes they just flow like that! It was cold though- it went into October and at one point I was literally shovelling snow off my lift."

Trudy Turner: "When Adam and I speak about the Mural, he's choked and overcome with emotion. He's such a humble guy. He's a movie star without ego; he's just a West End kid who happens to live in Hollywood."

Charlie: "How far can a man go? If you were to ask a shaman, he might tell you that in his dreams a man to travel to the furthest stars in the sky and beyond; or to parallel worlds with spirit guides and ancestors from other times. I think that Adam Beach must be a man who dared to dream, for he has traveled far in his lifetime. With this Mural I hope I have brought him back to his roots by casting a reflection of his life and work on the community he grew up in. As I was working at that spot, with the incredible response to the Mural by those who know Adam, I really got to know his community in a very special way. As I worked on Adam's portrait through the day, I would see the sun rise over the wall, cast high noon shadows on the bricks and finally turn the rich colours to a searing red and twilight before fading to black. And I thought, cool! This is poetry!"