Manitoba

Step into street art: Winnipeg painters brighten up city's footbridges during COVID-19

The city’s bridges are once again getting some artistic flair from Cool Streets Winnipeg this summer. Now in its fifth year, the art project has almost finished transforming eight walking bridges throughout the city. 

Annual Cool Streets project takes on added meaning as people try to stay active

Cyclists cross one of three bridges in Bunn's Creek Park that are part of this year's Cool Streets Winnipeg project. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The city's bridges are once again getting some artistic flair from Cool Streets Winnipeg this summer. 

Now in its fifth year, the art project has almost finished transforming eight walking bridges throughout the city. 

Project founder and artist Stéphane Dorge says the project aims to help Winnipeggers stay active, while hopefully inspiring city officials to invest in more walking bridges to shift transportation habits in our city. 

"I'm really passionate about urban issues, and we keep cutting our active transportation budget to next to nothing," Dorge said.

"If we could build a dozen new bridges over the Red and Assiniboine rivers, we could really change transportation habits and make walking or biking a lot easier and achievable. Hopefully we inspire people to see the benefits of these bridges. I hope people talk to their MLAs, councillors or MPs to try and find funding and make them a priority."

Citrus Splash, by Alex Plante, adorns the Niakwa Road Bridge, one of the eight footbridges that are part of the Cool Streets project. (Dan Harper)

Architect-in-training Paulo Castillo says being a part of the project is something his firm, Architects At Play, hopes to continue in the future, even though they aren't traditional paintbrush artists. 

"We were honoured to be invited to participate. This is different from what we normally do, but it makes it exciting."

Castillo says it was nice to hear bystanders admire their work.

"We had daily walkers who were encouraged by our daily progress. To hear the appreciation for our art was amazing, and everyone was so supportive, and surprised that it was just one of many bridges in the city."

Castillo explains their design ideas were inspired by children and play, which is what they stand for. "Play is in our DNA" is the company's slogan. 

"When we were first brainstorming, we were inspired by all of the previous bridge design colours," he said.

"It kind of led to the idea of creating something playful, and hopefully give an opportunity for people to engage, which led to an interactive bridge as an extension of your neighbourhood sidewalk with hopscotch, letters and numbers as a non-structured design."

Another of the three Cool Streets bridges in Bunn's Creek Park. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

With a few grants from the City of Winnipeg and others, including the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Cool Streets is aiming to empower Winnipeggers to stay active, especially during the pandemic. 

"We definitely noticed a huge increase in the diversity of people walking and biking while we were painting. It seems there are a lot more people outdoors, actively exploring the communities. It's great to see," said Dorge. 

The group is hoping to finish painting the pedestrian bridges by June 30.

If you find yourself out for a stroll this weekend, check out the bridges located at:

  • John Bruce Road.

  • Pont Voyageur in north St. Boniface.

  • Tremblay Street and Edgewood Street.

  • Niakwa Trail near Fermor Avenue.

  • Niakwa Road Bridge.

  • Bunn's Creek Park — three new bridges are all found here.

Pont Voyageur in north St. Boniface is the canvas for Walking on Water, by Kailey Sheppard. (Dan Harper)

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