Winnipeg artist's large labour of love on way to Churchill — full of food

Internationally-acclaimed Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski wants the public's help filling a large — and beautiful — care package for Churchill, Manitoba.

Kal Barteski wants the public's help filling a 'care package' for the northern community close to her heart

Kal Barteski's large labour of love is painting and filling this shipping container to send to Churchill, Manitoba. (Trevor Brine/CBC News)

Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski is getting another chance to send her love and admiration for Churchill through her art. 

"From the moment I stepped off the plane, from the first five minutes when we actually saw a polar bear in real life, that town has just captivated me," said Barteski.

This past summer, the acclaimed painter tried to create a mural on a shipping container in Churchill but was defeated by poor weather which ended the project.

Trying again seemed impossible. Her husband, Dan Kostenchuk, the love of her life, who supported her work and cared for her three daughters when she was away on projects, died this past January from lung cancer.

"There were so many logistical pieces that had to be arranged for my kids and for myself in order to get me there and when the weather didn't cooperate I thought, how am I going to do this? Because now, I don't have an extra set of hands," said Barteski as she starts to cry.

Then, Boxx Pools offered to drop off a shipping container in front of her house in Wolseley and Gardwine and Arctic Railway then offered to ship it to Churchill at no cost.

For Barteski, it means she will be closer to her three daughters, Pilot, Penn and Poet.

"It's really great to have this here, close to us. I can do what I love, they can be with me and we can do something nice for Churchill."

But the artist also saw an opportunity for something bigger.

One side of the container will feature Churchill's epic sunsets and polar bears. (Trevor Brine/CBC News)

"We thought what if we call Winnipeg Harvest and see if they'll put food  inside this container and we can ship it up to Churchill? So, now it has two purposes. It's like a care package for Churchill," said Barteski.

Barteski said Winnipeg Harvest will put eight pallets of food into the container, but that still leaves room in the nine-feet high, 20-feet wide steel box.

"If anyone has any extra boxes of diapers. formula, toothbrushes, anything you can think of that's new and in its packaging. We could get that sent up there as part of our care package."

Barteski is encouraging people who will be out this weekend for Nuit Blanche — a series of public spaces and events celebrating art across the city —to drop off items and see the container at Canora Street.

"It's been great to have people stop by, ask questions, engage with the art. It's only here for a very short time, it will be leaving by the end of next week, so come take a look."

She said people can also drop items off in spots on Back Alley Arctic. That's the name of the lane behind her house in Wolseley that gets lit up for Nuit Blanche every year and fills with families. Barteski's art of belugas, polar bears and seals can be seen on garage doors or painted panels on fences.

The other side of the container will feature northern lights and wolves. (Trevor Brine/CBC News)

In the meantime, she continues to work on the container, featuring wolves and northern lights on one side while highlighting Churchill's epic sunsets and polar bears on the other side. She is also planning to add something to the roof of the container so it will be visible to tourists from the sky.

"It means more than people can possibly understand. This is something we can do that will help them, help me. It's fun for the community and I'm so grateful," says Barteski.

Once the container leaves Winnipeg Oct. 4 and arrives in Churchill, it will become part of the mural tour there. Barteski was instrumental in gathering 18 international artists to be part of Seawalls Churchill Festival in 2017. It was all captured in CBC's Know I'm Here documentary which followed the artist north just as its only railway into the town was destroyed.

Love and admiration for Churchill through art

3 years ago
Duration 2:21
Kal Barteski wants the public's help filling a 'care package' for the northern community close to her heart.


Eleanor has more than 15 years of experience in television news as a producer, reporter, anchor and host. She has covered everything from politics to consumer trends but is most driven to find local stories that resonate or have an impact on the community. You can reach her at Twitter: @ECoopsammy