A collection of murals in the compact downtown area of the Transcona neighbourhood of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Once its own city, Transcona became part of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1972 when the City of Winnipeg amalgamated with surrounding municipalities. Transcona formed when the Grand Trunk Pacific and the National Transcontinental Railway built a repair and maintenance shop in the area in 1908. The town was incorporated in 1912 and by 1916 was the second largest town in Manitoba. The railway remains a major employer in the community.
The mural featured at the top of this post features what Regent Avenue, the main street running through Transcona, would have looked like in the 1910s with gravel roads, wooden sidewalks, and early businesses. Old Regent Avenue, painted by Dan Sawatzky in 1991-92 is one of the first murals painted in Transcona’s downtown. The mural was restored by Tom Andrich in 2010. The mural is located at 130 Regent Ave E.
In Transcona’s compact downtown, you’ll find a number of murals commissioned by Transcona BIZ. The murals commissioned prior to 2016 focused on traditional themes with an emphasis on Transcona history. There was a preference for local artists. The murals used large, prominent wall spaces. In 2016, they adopted a new plan which included contemporary and urban art by local and international artists, visually engaging themes, and use of smaller walls in alleys and laneways. The earlier murals were generally done with acrylic paints. Many of the newer murals, although not all, have been done with spray paint.
The Transcona Museum offers guided mural walking tours in summer months. I took one of those tours and found it very interesting. The downtown murals are located in close proximity to the museum and to each other. Checking out the murals makes for a pleasant walk. There are also few murals located outside this core area that I did not see. Check the Transcona Biz Murals and Public Art page.
In addition to the mural at the top of this post, there are several other murals highlighting bits of Transcona history.
Painted by Dan Sawatsky in 1991-1992 as one of the four original murals, Transcona Shops depicts work in the Transcona Shops and showcases the community’s railway origins. The mural is located at 201 Regent Ave W. Weather and other factors cause murals to fade over time. This mural was restored by Tom Andrich in 2010. It has faded a bit since then.
Note: sometimes murals are in too poor a condition to be restored and wind up being removed. Sometimes, other reasons such as required building changes, result in murals being painted over.
Transcona Celebrating 100 Years of Rich History
The side of the Pandora Inn at 103 Bond Street features a mural celebrating the 100th anniversary of Transcona in 2012. It was painted by Annie Bergen in 2010. The building was once the Palma Inn, which is featured on the right-hand end of the mural. The Palma, whose rooms were mainly rented by C.N. employees, was originally a two-story building. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that the painted Palma door actually covers a real door.
2005 Year of the Veteran
Painted by Charlie Johnston in 2005, 2005 Year of the Veteran on the side of the Transcona Legion at 117 Regent Ave E tells the story of Transcona’s efforts in the World Wars. The idea for the mural came from the late Sir Paul Martin, a World War II veteran and long-time resident of Transcona, where he served as school trustee, city councillor, and mayor, and founder of the Transcona Historical Museum. He was named “The Greatest Transconian” in 2005.
The mural features symbols of remembrance, members of different military branches and aspects of the Transcona community before the onset of war, such as the Central School, which many of the soldiers attended. The motorcycle in the mural is a 1942 Harley Davidson. Martin used to ride one.
In addition to soldiers sent overseas, Transcona war efforts included a munitions factory in the Grand Trunk Railway paint shop during World War I, a cordite plant producing explosives during World War II, and Canada’s Armoured Train.
The Transcona Museum website has information about that armoured train. After the Pearl Harbour attack in World War II, Canada was worried about the security of the west coast and the CNR “North” railway line to Prince Rupert, an important port for shipping supplies to Alaska. In what later became known as one of the best-kept secrets of the war, the Canadian Army Engineering Branch designed Canada’s No. 1 Armoured Train. The work to armour the rail cars and engine was done in the Transcona Shops and was considered a military secret. The train made it to the west coast, but there were serious problems. Vibrations loosened bolts. Static electricity discharge caused radio communications to go dead when the whistle blew. And the train was too heavy for the tracks and damaged the railway line it was supposed to protect. The train was sent to the Vancouver CNR workshops in early September 1942. It returned to service in November and continued operations through September 1943.
In Honour of Henry Enns
A mural, painted in 2021 by Sarah Collard on the side of Henry’s Car Wash & Petro Canada at 107 Pandora Ave W, honours the previous owner of the Transcona staple who was know for conversing with customers, making people laugh, and handing out suckers to kids.
An untitled mural painted on the side of 309 Bond St in 2016 by James Culleton features the business colours of the former North American Lumber, one of the longest-running businesses in Transcona.
Alley Way Murals
There is a concentration of murals viewable within a few steps of each other in the back lane between Regent Avenue W and Victoria Avenue W just east of Bond Street.
Life Goddess, painted by Michael Johnston in 2018 on the side of Sevala’s Ukrainian Deli at 126 Victoria Avenue W, was voted that year’s Winnipeg’s Mural of the Year. It is a modern interpretation of Ukrainian themes.
Painted in 2016 by Nereo Jr. Eugenio (Nereo II) on the side of 127 Regent Avenue W., Rubik’s Cube represents symmetry and a puzzle at the same time.
Also at 136 Victoria Avenue W, you’ll find an untitled mural painted in 2017 by Douglas Hoekzema (hoxxoh) with the theme “time waits for no man.” It illustrates the motions of time and space working in unison to create a natural order. Something the tour guide said resonated with me. She said it reminded her a bit of Spirograph drawings.
The bright colours of an untitled mural painted on the side of the building at 130 Victoria Avenue W in 2017 by James Botkin invite you to step closer and see more. There are many interesting details to be seen when you study pieces of the mural up close.
An untitled mural on the side and back of Royal Garden at 139 Regent Avenue W was painted by Brian Gasenzer (Cash Akoza) in 2016 and features nature scenes.
Manitoba Spirit Animals
Manitoba Spirit Animals, painted by Shelby Willis and her mother Cheryl Metcalf in 2018 on the side of 314 Bond Street, features a bison, a moose, and a wolf.
Owl was painted on the back of 314 Bond Street in 2016 by Fred Thomas, a Winnipeg-based tattoo artist and visual artist. Thomas loves incorporating the features of a building into a painting. Here he’s painted over poles on the buildings and worked round a door.
And A Few More Murals
Painted by Brian Gasenzer (Cash Akoza) in 2016 on the side of 110 Regent Avenue W, Spirit Gathering depicts an eagle, a deer, and people in what appears to be a dreamscape. Gasenzer uses spray paint as it allows him to work faster and produce more vibrant colours.
Remember When, painted by Kristinn Walsh in 2006, was commissioned by the owners of the former Whistle Pig Drive Inn at 102 Victoria Avenue E as a bit of nostalgia featuring 1950s film and music icons. (Note that the man bent over at the far right is not part of the mural – he was working in the yard when I took the photo.)
Transcona Welcome Mats
Four sidewalk murals, painted on the sidewalks on Bond Street between Pandora Ave and Regent Avenue in 2019 by James, Culleton, Rachel Lancaster, Gleena Evans, Leif Norman, and Darryl Neufeld, were meant to welcome visitors into the community. Time and wear have eroded the once-bright colours, an unintended reminder of the transience of public art.
For information on other murals in Winnipeg, see post Murals in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
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