Prairie-inspired murals help bring the community of Selkirk together

By: Jules Stevenson

The people of Selkirk can expect a splash of colour on this fall, as the Interlake Mural Project revitalizes and unifies the community through art.

World-renowned muralist Charlie Johnston, 57, was one of the first to join the project as a facilitator. There are nine completed murals in Selkirk and two others being painted right now. 

Michel Saint Hilaire, a muralist from Winnipeg, is new to the project. Saint Hilaire is currently painting a mural inspired by Holiday Alley, a local festival of art, light and culture, on the side of Roxi’s by the Red Uptown Cafe. The brightly coloured mural depicts figures holding hands in a traditional Indigenous round dance. 

“We really wanted to remind each other about how people in Selkirk reunite. It’s a future hope,” said 48-year-old Saint Hilaire.

Muralist Michel Saint Hilaire paints a festive scene on the side of Roxi’s by the Red Uptown Cafe./JULES STEVENSON

Meanwhile, Johnston is working on a mural outside of Packers Fashion. He said his mother, who passed away in 2006, always wanted him to paint a mural on the side of the clothing store, as it’s the hub of Selkirk on the corner of Manitoba and Main.

“Growing up in the Selkirk area, this mural holds a special place in my heart,” said Johnston.

These murals are part of the City of Selkirk’s renewal strategy, which aims to bring art, revitalization and festivities to the downtown area.

 “Part of the beauty of mural art is it has a revitalizing quality to it. It has a healing quality. It brings a sense of safety,” he said.

Johnston, who started his career as a sign-painter in Winnipeg, said he’s excited to bring his 32 years of experience back to his hometown. This mural, named Prairie Crocuses, tells the story of the Selkirk settlement through a feminist lens. 

“Prairie Crocuses are a beautiful, hardy flower that can withstand the most horrific conditions, yet still shine and be beautiful. I saw that as the women who pioneered this place.”

The mural will show the Métis, Indigenous, and immigrant women of the settlement on their journey through town, avoiding obstacles such as muddy puddles and a runaway oxcart. Johnston said on a deeper level, it represents their struggle to keep their culture and heritage alive. 

Both Saint Hilaire and Johnston aim to complete their murals by early October.