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

"Windows into Portugal"

West End Biz Mural Mentor Project for 2009. We are impressed with this stunning design from Mural Mentor Allison Penner Harder, who has no formal art training.

Location: S side bet. Banning & Burnell; West Face

Occupant: JEM Insurance

District: West End

Neighbourhood: St. Matthews

Artist(s): Allison Penner Harder

Year: 2009

Sponsors: West End BIZ, HRSDC Summer Career Placement, Neighbourhoods Alive! (Manitoba)

Painters: Caitlin D., Katrina H., Ashleigh A., Sean A., Chelsea A., Hunter D.H., Kaitlyn L., Gabrielle L., Ian M., Shlee, Brendan G., David G., Taralynn B., Dallas W., Robin, Jordan, Richard W., Prarie Dawn (Paige), Hilary, Shianne G., Eric A., Kim M., Stephanie M., Jacob H., John O., Paige M., Shaylene S., Jordan R.


Allison Penner Harder: "I was really worried about finding a summer job. This Mural Mentorship position ended up being a great experience. At first I was really intimidated about creating art in a public space where everybody could see it happening because normally it's really private for me- I don't even like my family watching me. I decided not to worry about it but it was still there in the back of my mind."

"I went to see the West End Biz and showed my portfolio, but there were no paintings in it. They asked me to do a painting and bring it to them so I did even though it was the last week of exams and I was studying madly and painting at the same time. It turned out really well considering I hadn't painted in about 8 years, and they hired me!"

"The first 2 months of work was occupied with coming up with concepts and then presenting drafts which were eventually refined into a maquette of the design. We started at the wall on July 2nd. The weather was brutal. I must have lost a couple of weeks at least due to rain. Later in the summer I started working in the rain more because we needed to get it done- I would go from the office to the wall, work for a bit and go back in. At the beginning it was 'well it's OK it we miss this day because we have so many more'; but eventually we started to run out of days! One time I was painting the railing and it suddenly started pouring and all of the black paint had washed down the whole wall. So, yes, the weather was a huge challenge. The kids who did come out in the inclement weather would paint right through the rain- they were great!"

"I had 29 kids. Some came out just once; and some came out every couple of days. The younger kids worked on the right side and on the lower parts of the wall. I had some older kids helping at the top because the younger kids couldn't go on the ladder."

"Lots of people dropped by to talk to us. It was just so nice- the community support was tremendous, even from people who were just walking by. The business owner was wonderful and people were so encouraging. There's good community spirit here. I just moved into this neighbourhood in March, so it was a great way to meet some of the people in my own community."

A walkthrough of the Mural:

"Starting at the left (photo 3), the concept of this side was a traditional Portuguese wall with the tiles, called azulejos. These are ceramic tiles and they paint them all by hand, which is also who we did here- so they're not all identical. Above are the brown terracotta tiles for the roof that are very common in that part of the world. As what was mentioned at the unveiling, it's not just a Portuguese Mural, but a very Mediterranean Mural. This could be anywhere in the Mediterranean."

"The wrought iron railing is there, along with the flowers that Jose (the client) had been really specific about having them on there, and in all these various colours. The flowers are very plentiful on his island, Sao Miguel."

"The portrait of the man was inspired by a postcard that Jose had given us to represent the farming community. The old man is a farmer wearing the traditional clothing. The hat would be either black or red, he said; so I went with black but I made it faded because I thought he's been working in the bright sun his whole life- it's probably more of a gray by now. So he's the old man looking out into our world. His hand is actually (West End BIZ's) Gabrielle's hand- I had her pose for me to get the look, and used the pose of her hand as a photo reference. And I made the hand more 'mannish' of course. And my husband was the photo reference of the soccer boy's hand on the soccer ball."

"The second window (photo 4) is representative of the seaside community. I had designed the lady for this window, but I didn't have her with the bucket on her head. Jose had suggested adding that as the ladies would carry buckets of sardines; and you can see the suggestion of this detail at the top of the frame. It's there for you to discover. The clothing is traditional, with bright colours- the tucked-in scarves over the white shirts is very traditional there. Often there would be detailed embroidery on them, and that was originally in my plan, but we simply ran out of time. You can also see the brightly coloured fishing boats that are popular there."

"In the next window (photo 5) we have the Tower of Belem, which is just outside of Lisbon. Jose says that this landmark is older than the country itself. Its purpose was to guard against pirates. Then we have the boy with the soccer ball. The love of soccer is huge in Portugal. This is one of my favourite parts of this Mural. The West End BIZ's mural tour guide helped me paint the soccer ball."

"The first bottom panel is the Monument of Discovery. It's a huge monument that pays homage to their Fathers of Exploration. That is something that they are very proud of. Because this is so small I couldn't put a great deal of detail into it. If you view the Monument from behind, you see this giant cross. Next to the signature panel is an outline map of mainland Portugal. The anchor in the next panel is representative of discovery and navigation. Next is the wooden rooster that they would paint and carry around at festivals, another tradition."

"In the children's scene above it, it was Jose's suggestion to have the river coming down between the two hills in the area where they make the port wine. That's what those two figures at the right are doing- picking the grapes. The rest of the scene we wanted to keep it multicultural to represent Winnipeg's makeup and the West End in particular. The kids are playing soccer- a sport enjoyed all over the world. On their jerseys are the names of some of the kids who worked at the wall."