Saturday September 09, 2017

This artist transformed her back lane into an Arctic animal art gallery

Listen 6:17

If you're looking for Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski, you'll likely find her in a back lane... painting a giant polar bear. 

A painter and brush script letterer, Barteski has been spending the summer of 2017 bringing a little bit of the Arctic to the alleyway behind her house. 

"Nothing good happens in a back lane — so I wanted to make it a little more colourful, and see if I could perhaps make a walk-able or bike-able art gallery," said Barteski. 

Using garage doors, fences, and pavement as her canvas, Barteski is painting a variety of Arctic animals amongst the garbage and recycling bins. After adorning her own garage door with a polar bear, others who share the back lane began to inquire about getting their own Arctic works of art.

"Some of the neighbours saw that [it] was happening, and asked 'why don't you paint my garage door?'," said Barteski, "I fell down the rabbit hole from there." 

Eventually, the project grew to encompass the length of the alleyway in Barteski's neighbourhood of Wolseley. In addition to polar bears, there are also works featuring herds of caribou, a pod of narwhals, a massive moustached walrus and more. 

Kal Barteski

Artist Kal Barteski poses with one of her 'Back Alley Arctic' garage door paintings. (Kal Barteski / Instagram)

Every day Barteski is out painting, more and more neighbours stop by to check out the progress and say hello. She says the walk-able Arctic art gallery has helped to transform the way that she and her neighbours treat the back lane.

"Even if you paint a garage door, immediately the owners will come up and sweep in front, they'll move some weeds and it has this magical ability — almost like a domino effect: people want to improve things," said Barteski, "Not that I think my back lane was terrible, but it's really fascinating to see the community effect of improvement." 

Barteski estimates that it will take about 350 hours of work in total to complete the alleyway. She and her neighbours are inviting the city to see the final project as part of Winnipeg's Nuit Blanche on September 30. 

Inspired by this story? Create your own Now or Never list and answer the question: "My neighbourhood would be a million times better if I..."