Meaningful murals are putting a fresh coat on historic buildings in the North End
Jen Doerksen, BEAT REPORTER
Some of Winnipeg’s old brick buildings are becoming giant canvases this September.
This month, Synonym Art Consultation, is hosting their third annual Wall-to-Wall mural festival. Designed as a celebration of public art, Wall-to-Wall spurs the creation of seven murals around downtown Winnipeg, plus music events and a bike jam.
“The number one intent is to make art as accessible as possible,” said Chloe Chafe, Synonym creative co-director. “We found there’s a lack of diversity in the art world, and people feel like they don’t know how to access art. So the idea is to make it so people have no excuse.”
Alexa Hatanka and Patrick Thompson of PA System, an art duo based in Toronto, painted the first mural of the festival on 762 Main Street from Sept. 1 to Sept. 7. Par Josephee, a 17-year-old artist from Cape Dorset, Nunavut, collaborated with PA System on designing and painting the mural.
“Working with Par is the goal. To have these youth understand that their voices do matter. When you live so remotely and so often you aren’t heard or seen, it’s easy to think that your opinions don’t mean anything,” Hatanaka said.
Josephee got involved with the mural through the art programming they run in Nunavut called Embassy of Imagination.
Josephee is excited to be involved with PA System. He is moving to Toronto for his last year of high school.
“I’m from a really small community, a population of like 1400 or so, and now [I’m] moving somewhere with a population larger than the whole territory I’m from,” he said. “I’ll have interesting stories to tell my family up north.”
“Public art is a great way to speak on a huge scale. People come out and meet you and you realize ‘I actually can have a stake in this country and I can have a voice.’ And I think Par definitely felt that,” Hatanaka said.
The mural is called “Aqua Lungs,” and it symbolizes the impact of seismic testing on marine life up north.
Josephee has mentored youth on mural projects in Toronto and Montreal. This is the first mural he’s helped design.
“The guy who is catching a fish is me, because I caught my first fish this year in Northern Ontario,” he said.
“The challenge in creating any kind of public work is to create something that keeps evolving and keeps revealing itself,” said Thompson. “So upon first viewing, things may be confusing and complicated, but layers of meaning or beauty or ugly reveal themselves, which I think allows work to live on longer.”
Three of the murals, including “Aqua Lungs,” are in the North End just off Main St. The others are off of Sherbrooke St. and Osborne St.
Synonym invites artists to create medium to large sized murals for Winnipeg’s urban setting. The murals are larger than previous years, and Synonym invited more out of town artists to participate than previous years.
The artistic expressions will continue throughout the month, with murals going up near Edge Gallery, Little Sister Coffee Maker, and Khao House.
A series of events will celebrate the completion of each mural. The first event kicked off the festival with First Fridays at the Tallest Poppy.
The Gaia portrait on Khao House is launching during the Sherbrooke Street Festival on Sept. 10. The Little Sister Coffee Maker opening will happen on Sept. 24, coinciding with a day of music called Spaceland 2.
The Star Blanket murals open on Friday, Sept. 30 and the festival will wrap up with the Rainbow Trout Music Festival Bike Jam for Nuit Blanche on Saturday, Oct. 1.