Manitoba

Massive murals go up in North End with help from 17-year-old Cape Dorset artist

​Two massive murals are going up in the North End this week to kick off a month-long celebration of public art by Winnipeg’s Synonym Art Consultation.

Synonym Art Consultation plans month of public art mural painting for Wall to Wall

Two massive murals are going up in the North End this week to kick off a month-long celebration of public art by Winnipeg's Synonym Art Consultation. 1:13

Two massive murals are going up in the North End this week to kick off a month-long celebration of public art by Winnipeg's Synonym Art Consultation.

The group does public art programming throughout the year, but September brings their biggest projects with a month of intensive mural painting and art parties.

This year's focus is the North End, and they've brought in two sets of visiting artists to a complete project at 782 Main St.
17-year-old Cape Dorset artist Parr Josephee has been working with the Toronto-based art collective PA System for three years. This is his first large-scale project with the duo. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"We're activating two massive murals to start a longer process of revitalizing the area through visual art and free music programming," said Chloe Chafe, the company's creative director. "Art this scale is really rare in Winnipeg."

Toronto-based PA System (Patrick Thompson and Alexa Hatanaka) are working on a piece on The Winnipeg Vineyard Centre Church along with visiting artist Parr Josephee and the South-American duo Bruno Smoky and Shalak Attack.

The work features two narwhals with lungs full of water and other life — inspired in part by the time Thompson and Hatanaka spend each year in Cape Dorset running a mobile art program for teens.

"There's a fight right now," Thompson said, alluding to the ongoing battle over proposed seismic testing in Clyde River that Inuit fear will affect narwhal and other marine mammals. "We wanted to create a piece in solidarity with that."

The work at 781 Main St. will feature two narwhal with lungs full of water and other life – inspired in part by the time PA System spends each year in Cape Dorset running a mobile art program for teens. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

17-year-old Josephee was a part of their mobile art program and has been working on small projects with the pair in Cape Dorset for several years.

The North End mural is the first time the trio have worked exclusively together on a large-scale project.

"It's amazing. When I was younger, I didn't think I was going to be a part of any murals or anything. I wasn't expecting this and I'm so happy I'm a part of this," said Josephee. "The weather's hot. The city's huge — a lot of interesting stuff. I'm living the life right now."

Down the street, primer is going up on a star blanket mural at 611 Main St.

Kenneth Lavallee will cover two Main Street walls with a 30-metre long star blanket pattern to honour murdered and missing Indigenous women.

"Winnipeg is known for mostly historical murals, which we're really grateful for, but what we're really trying to do is bring in different abstract works, contemporary artworks. Artworks that don't necessarily just symbolize a business or a history of a business," said Chafe.

The public is invited to watch the progress on both murals all weekend.

"We're going to be hustling pretty hard to get it done," said Thompson. "One of the hardest things is budgeting your time because it's such a massive wall and budgeting your energy."

The Wall to Wall Mural and Culture Festival will run all month, with public art installations popping up throughout.

Synonym Art Consultation is capping the month with a collaborative mural at 225 Sutherland Ave. to be completed at a Nuit Blanche party on Oct. 1.

From left: Alexa Hatanaka, Parr Josephee and Patrick Thompson are completing a mural in Winnipeg's North End. Hatanaka and Thompson are a collective called PA System based in Toronto, which runs a mobile art program for teens in Cape Dorset. Josephee, age 17, has been a part of the program for three years. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

With files from CBC’s Trevor Brine