Aug 232015
 

West End Murals

 

Murals in Winnipeg’s West End neighbourhood highlight history and ethnic diversity

The West End neighbourhood in Winnipeg, Manitoba is the most culturally diverse. It is the area many immigrants first settle in. It is also home to over 70 murals. During the summer months (June – August), the West End Business Improvement Zone, a non-profit association committed to building a stronger West End community, conducts walking tours of murals in the area. The award-winning tour has been running for ten years.

This summer I finally took the tour myself. Our tour guide met my friend and I in the Safeway parking lot. We were the only two on the tour. The murals we would see showcased the multi-cultural nature of the community as well as its history. The mural in the photograph at the top of this post reflects the community as an international village. Symbols from every continent are included, as are flags of many countries, with a maple leaf in the centre.

West End Murals

Some murals represented various ethnic heritages. A drive-through mural with paintings on either side of the drive-through showcased four of the countries with major immigrant influences on Winnipeg – Poland, Ukraine, India, and Philippines. We found other murals celebrating other ethnicities among murals showcasing history of the community and individuals who have had a significant influence on the area.

West End Murals: Icelandic heritage
Mural on Icelandic history and heritage in Manitoba

West End Murals

West End Murals - Voyageurs
Mural depiciting voyageur history and French-Canadian heritage

The West End is actually not in the farthest west end of Winnipeg, as one might suspect from the name. It borders the downtown area. It was created as part of a residential expansion between 1890 and 1912, and grew quickly as a working-class and middle-class neighbourhood. Parts of the area declined after World War II as families moved to the suburbs. Revitalization has been occurring since the 1980s.

West End Murals - neighbourhood history
One of the murals showcasing localized history
West End Murals - Winnipeg Roller Rink
Mural of Winnipeg Roller Rink

I found the mural of the Winnipeg Roller Rink particularly interesting. The mural is located on the building across the street from the former location of the roller rink, which operated from the 1930s until 2007. In the 1940s and 1950s, it was famous for its Roller Skating Carnivals, a tourist attraction. But it is a personal connection to its history that interests me. My mother-in-law often told the story of how she met my father-in-law at that roller rink. She was impressed when he walked her home all the way to her street, only to discover he lived on the same street. Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex, part of the University of Winnipeg, now sits on the location of the former roller rink. In its main hallway, a bright atrium space, floor boards from the roller rink adorn the walls.

West End Mural tour - university science building wall with floorboards from former roller rink
Floor boards from roller rink on walls of science building
West End Murals - return of the jets
Mural celebrating local hockey history and the return of the Jets NHL team to Winnipeg

The West End Biz works with businesses and sponsors to create new murals. They select themes and placement of the murals is often relevant to the theme.

West End Murals - World Cup
Mural about the World Cup and nations coming together
is on the side of a billiards bar/cafe, a popular place to watch soccer.

(Mural was created for the 2010 World Cup.
The ball was repainted in 2014 to match that year’s design.)
West End Murals
Aboriginal theme on a building housing immigration services
West End Murals: Zoohky
Mural of Walter Zielke-Reusch, known as Zoohky
Zoohky was a much-loved kind-hearted and mentally challenged West Ender.
He rode his bicycle summer and winter, and fixed things for people.
This mural is on the side of the Zoohky Memorial Hall, a building renamed in his honour.
West End Murals: Adam Beach
Mural about Adam Beach, a Canadian First Nations actor,
shows him as a youth, as an adult and in two of his roles.

The mural is located near the Adam Beach Film Institute, which provides film training and resources to aboriginal youth.
West End Murals: Bill Norrie
Mural representing the many aspects of the life of West Ender Bill Norrie,
mayor of Winnipeg from 1979 to 1992
West End Murals: A Man Called Intreped
Mural honouring Sir Walter Stephenson

A mural on the wall of the first Royal Canadian Legion building in Canada honours Sir William Stephenson, the man called Intrepid. A Winnipeg native, he served in World War I. After World War I, he became a millionaire through a number of patents and business ventures. He served with British Intelligence in World War II. He is considered by many to be one of the inspirations for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Due to financial difficulties the Legion branch closed earlier this year. There are rumours the building will be torn down, but the fate of the building and the mural are unclear at the moment.

West End Murals: Harry Lehotsky
Mural honouring the life and work of Pastor Harry Lehotksy,
known for his advocacy on behalf of the poor in the West End

The tour took just under two hours with a refreshment stop mid-way. The tour runs Monday through Saturday June through August. Start times are flexible with tours scheduled as per demand. Group sizes of two to over fifteen are welcome. The cost is $5. Call the West End Biz to book.

We saw about twenty murals on the tour and stayed mostly in the east end of the West End. I think I may need to explore further on my mine to discover some of the other murals.

Linked to Travel Mondays

  42 Responses to “West End Murals”

  1. It was a great tour! I’m glad you suggested it.

  2. These murals are amazing, I would love to take that tour. I especially like the library shelves mural, and the bicycle – as well as what the bicycle represents.

    • Thanks Patti. There were a lot of relevant symbols in the murals that I couldn’t easily include in a blog post, but the tour guide points them out, especially in the one with the library shelves about Bill Norrie’s life.

  3. West End tour of the murals will definitely be on my list of things to do next visit to Winnipeg. It’s been years since I visited but maybe soon!

    • Susan,I live in the city and the west end murals were a delightful surprise for me. I think you’ll find quite a bit to see in Winnipeg when you get back here.

  4. I love street art. These look fantastic~

  5. That’s fascinating – I hadn’t realised that Winnipeg was so diverse. And the street art is a great way of expressing multiculturalism.

  6. These are amazing! What I love most is that they honor them by having a tour. We have many urban areas here in the US where murals have become a part of the landscape, but the idea of fashioning a tour around them is fantastic.

    • Jacquie, the tour was great. The guide provided background about the creation of the murals and pointed out the meaning of items in the murals I would likely not have known otherwise. She also provided some interesting history on the area we walked through.

  7. Your posts have continued to raise interest in Winnipeg as a tourist destination. So many say there’s nothing to see there. I have a few Filipino friends who live there but didn’t know it is one of four major immigrant groups. I have always loved murals and the one of Pastor Lehotsky reminded me of the one that amazed me in Quebec City. Thanks again for a great post!

    • Carol, Filipinos were not one of the early immigrant groups to Winnipeg. Most of the immigration occurred 1960 and onward, especially after 1990. But Filipinos now make up 9 to 10% of the Winnipeg population and are listed as the largest ethnic minority group.

  8. Wow! Those murals are like taking an outdoor gallery tour of Winnipeg!

  9. This was fascinating and a brilliant idea on the part of Winnipeg. Don’t let Donald Trump find out about celebrating anything multi-cultural! I really don’t know anything about Winnipeg but you’ve got me interested now.

    • Kay, the West End Biz began promoting and creating murals as a way to beautify the area and help build pride, as well as tell the history and story. It has also been a deterrent to graffiti. Winnipeg is often over-looked as a Canadian tourist destination, but I think it has lots to offer a visitor.

  10. Some very talented artists here! What a great way for visitors to learn about different aspects of Canadian history, and some of our notable legends. I laughed at your walking home story!

    • Nancie, my mother-in-law loved to tell the walking home story. The mural artists are talented. The couple that painted the Bill Norrie mural (and at least one other on the tour) make their living as full-time mural artists.

  11. The West End Murals tour sounds great! I think the Bill Norrie mural is my favorite too, though I’m also quite charmed by the Zoohky one. It’s not often that you hear of someone honored just for being a nice guy, not for any huge accomplishments. It’s touching!

  12. Super post, Donna. We are SO lucky in Winnipeg to have more than 500 marvellous murals. The West End sure does have some terrific ones.

  13. I love all of the murals and you are right, they do show Winnipeg’s ethic diversity.

  14. These are amazing murals. I love that they are artistically well done while telling such interesting stories. Quite a tour you had! I think the Bill Norrie mural is really cool. The detail is impressive.

  15. Wow, this is impressive had no idea about all these gorgeous murals in Manitoba, thanks for the tour and linking up today for Travel Photo Mondays

  16. I enjoy public art of all sorts, and these murals certainly show up interesting facets of local history and culture. Lovely to know about Winnipeg’s West End murals!

  17. I grew up in Winnipeg and it’s so nice to see an area I remember as quite shabby so enlivened by the west end murals. A little disappointed, though, that there aren’t more women represented in the murals. They need to make a new mural of all us vibrant girls who used to skate at the roller rink:D I wasn’t a great skater but sure enjoyed it! The tour looks like $5 well spent.

    • I certainly thought it was $5 well spent. I hadn’t thought about it at the time, but it would be nice to see more women represented in the murals. I will be looking for that when I explore the area to find the other murals.

  18. I love the street mural movement. Winnegeg’s West End neighborhood’s art looks like great fun. We visited two mural cities this year, Cuba MO and La Jolla CA but have seen a lot on buildings here and there in our travels. Nothing like street art!

  19. Love your street mural images. Next time I’m in Winnipeg I am definitely taking that tour. Thanks for sharing this.

  20. Love these! They make a walk an adventure of discovery! Anita

  21. Thanks for sharing these murals. I’ve always loved murals whenever I come across them. They add so much interest to wherever they appear. Boise has an alley called Freak Alley where the murals change on a constant basis. It’s really cool and a great way to get a lot of people involved in art.

  22. This tour sounds terrific! I have to try it.
    MaryLou

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