Polar Bear Splash, Assiniboine Park Zoo, pillars 14 ft tall, mural 12’ x 40’, Route 90 Underpass and Wellington Crescent, Winnipeg, MB, 2010, latex on cement

Sponsors: Richardson Foundation Incorporated, Take Pride Winnipeg, The City of Winnipeg, Hertz Equipment Rentals.

Tom Ethans, is the executive director of Take Pride Winnipeg; a non profit organization focused on graffiti removal and beautifying the city.  I first met Tom at a mural luncheon in 2006.  Since then, Tom helped me to get the Millers Meats mural which won mural of the year in 2009 and he has commissioned two underpasses, Polar Bear Splash and Secret Garden.  I have learned that Tom takes great pride in what he does and is a great support to artists and community members.  He arranged for donated paint, scaffolding and most of all the Green Team who tirelessly pressure washed the wall, preparing the surface for priming.  Every day Tom was available on his cell and many days he would drop by for a visit.  With this wall in particular, he set me up for success.  I was able to improve on the existing mural and the conditions were ideal; I could paint when it rained.  Most of all, Tom has taught me to trust him;  I learned that he really is a good guy and he will do whatever he can to help me.  He has a heart of gold and I am very thankful to him for commissioning these murals, for his tireless support and professionalism.  He finds money in the most lucrative places and where none else can!

Bob Buchanan, is the web administrator for the murals of winnipeg website, founder of Feed my Lambs Mission and husband to Louise Buchanan (who is a great support to him).  The murals of Winnipeg is an active site, with over 300,000 visitors since its inception in 2003.  That means that half of all Winnipeg-ers have visited this site.  It hosts all the current murals, most of the old ones (in the RIP section), a mapping interface to plan your mural-seeing adventure, artist profiles, links and more.  This kind of a site is run from Bob’s home where he tirelessly volunteers, interviewing artists, documenting murals, (taking unwanted photographs), visiting mural sites and planning this annual event.  Bob and I share a passion for murals.  Painting murals is something that gets in your blood (it’s better than insulin).  One of my best memories is on a cold, 30 below morning when he picked me up at my house, stopped at Tim Hortons to fill up our refillable coffee mugs (you save money that way), and painstakingly charted out to find murals that were lost on the radar.  Sure enough he found them, one covered over, two alive and well.  He took great delight in checking these off until all 500 were accounted for.  For me, Bob is my personal steam coach; fueling me in times of need and infuriating me at others.  He likes to remind me that I am senile, overprotective and in need of a real job (NOT).  Although he can be antagonistic, Bob is my biggest fan.  He attended all my art gallery openings, bought “Rockwell’s Dream Continued” (a mural submission I did), helped me cart my paintings across town, gave me his shoulder to cry on, shared contacts with me, sent me calls for submissions, went to conferences with me and became my friend.  I love Bob because I can swear with him on Saturday and go to church with him on Sunday.  Despite all he does for me and other artists, Bob volunteers for the Transcona Food Bank and Feed My Lambs Mission, handing out food to the hungry and providing breakfast and a movie.  A man of his calibre is not easily found and I think Winnipeg is rich because of him.  He too suffered a divorce and could relate to much of my emotional trauma. 

Some highlights for me on this wall, Polar Bear Splash are the juxtaposition between large and small (innocent toddler in front of the large bear), the caring relationship between the bears, the sense of playfulness and the interactive educational component.  The colours and composition of Polar Bear Splash worked well together from the very beginning and it is nice to see it come together, providing a refreshing pause.  My kids and I took numerous trips to the park where I accumulated hundreds of photographs for the mural.  It took about a year from the time I did the first drawing to the actual painting of the wall.  Even though it took awhile, it was worth the wait. 

Murals in Winnipeg

Nowhere else in this land can you find
A city with 500, one of a kind
Hand painted, diverse murals.
Whether they are urban scenes or rural

They give Artist’s a voice
Opportunities to create – a choice
Progressively they get better
Anticipated – for what seems to be forever

But once the mural is realized
And the plan unfolds
The mural comes to life
For all to behold.