It's a way to get to know the West End and change the perception that some people may have.
—Gloria Cardwell-Hoeppner, West End BIZ
"You think you know the West End? We're going to ask you to look again," says Gloria Cardwell-Hoeppner, executive director of West End BIZ.
West End BIZ is offering tours of the 65 murals that grace many walls in the West End, with options for short or long tours, in English or French.
Participants learn all about the history of the neighborhood, as well. "The tour is not just about the murals, it's an engaging narrative to help you get to know the neighborhood," says Cardwell-Hoeppner.
One of her favourites is "Roller Rink". "Our office is right on the corner of Portage and Langside so we actually watched the demolition of the roller rink," she says. "I remember skating there and I had my own roller skates when I was 13. So it had a lot of history for me and for many, many Winnipeggers. We decided to create this mural in memory of the roller rink. It's complete with mirror ball and it's on the side of our building right across from where the roller rink stood, so it's a nice walk down memory lane."
One of the most popular murals is called "Power Play", documenting the history of hockey through images. "We wanted to pay tribute to the history and the passion of hockey in Winnipeg and we knew it was timely because the Jets were coming back. So it's a really dynamic piece."
Some of the murals depict local heroes, like filmmaker Guy Maddin, Gar Gillies, inventor of the Garnet Amplifier and Reverend Harry Lehotsky.
Others pay tribute to the area's rich ethnic mix, with murals of Portuguese, Italians, Icelanders, even an Ethiopian coffee ceremony. "Historically, many new immigrants to this country or to Winnipeg began their Canadian journeys in the West End," says Cardwell-Hoeppner. "It's always been a very multicultural area."
She is proud of a number of murals that have been created through their award-winning Mural Mentorship Program which pairs a university art student with local youth. The large mural called "Earth to Table", which spreads over the entire wall of Sorrento's on Ellice, was created by 90 youths from the area.
"The whole idea of the tour is that it's an introductory tool to the area. It's a way to get to know the West End and change the perception that some people may have of the West End.
"The murals also add beauty to the streets. You're adding these colourful depictions to otherwise blank, bleak walls and they deter graffiti as well because graffiti artists tend to respect all art. It also helps instill some community pride for businesses and residents along our streets."
West End mural tours are available throughout the day and evening, Monday through Saturday, to the end of August.
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