It's an unusual sight: a large shipping container on Sherbrook Street doubling as an artist studio. 

Chelsea Grant is the artist-in-residence in this unorthodox art space. She is there greeting strangers and collecting stories about Winnipeg. The stories will be the catalyst for a Winnipeg inspired costume -- a work of art Grant will take to other countries.

It's all part of an effort by the RAW gallery to get artists into interactive and affordable spaces.

"We're getting some really incredible stories," says Grant. "The stories that we are now documenting from these people that come and visit us are now starting to inform the work."

"One of my favourites has to do with a woman who moved to Portage la Prairie, and she decided because everyone in her community was a hunter she should also be a hunter. So she bought a bow and arrow and went into the woods and got really lost," Grant explains.

Chelsea Grant

Chelsea Grant at work in the RAW:POD in its previous location in Osborne Village. (Steve Gairns)

Grant is hearing lots of stories of survival, lots of music stories and ghost stories. Someone told a story about  the ghost of a little boy in a graveyard in St. Boniface. People often bring toys to leave at his grave, and there is even another ghost who takes care of this little boy. 

"One of the themes that we're getting is the sense of being lost but also being found and cared for in the city. Even the ghosts are lost but cared for," she says.

Some of the stories she is hearing are downright weird. One woman told a story about acquiring a pig's head, which she carried home in her backpack and then boiled.

"Now she has a really excellent skull in her back yard," says Grant, laughing. "And her home smelled like bacon for the rest of the weekend."

So what will this Winnipeg-inspired costume ultimately look like? Grant says they are working with sculpted leather, papier maché carnival masks and, to make it more Canadian, pelts and skins.

Steve Gairns and Chelsea Grant

Steve Gairns and Chelsea Grant welcome to you come in and share your Winnipeg stories. (courtesy Steve Gairns)

"Who knows what it will end up being? Right now we're just playing," she says. 

Grant and her colleague Steve Gairns will ultimately travel to Europe where they will study the idea of 'carnival' in three countries. The project is an extension of her thesis, which she completed at the University of Manitoba in Architecture, in which she looked at the concept of 'festival' in Winnipeg and explored ways to support a more active and vibrant community in Winnipeg.

"We need to be in full costume dress for the majority of this adventure and we wanted to take a little piece of Winnipeg over with us," she says. "I really think that costumes and masking is a way of engaging with people you wouldn't normally engage with."

The RAW:POD studio project will be on Sherbrook Street just south of Westminster for about a week.