A group of community artists led by Kenneth Lavallee and Annie Beach is transforming the Helen Betty Osborne building on The University of Winnipeg’s campus by wrapping the exterior in a Star-Blanket-inspired mural. The building houses the Wii Chii Waakanak Learning Centre and the University’s ACCESS education program, and is home to some of UWinnipeg’s most innovative and accessible academic and community-learning programs.
Painting of the mural will take place from August 13 – 20. The mural project is coordinated by renowned Indigenous artist Kenneth Lavallee, in conjunction with Synonym Art Consultation, and is the first creation in this year’s Wall-to-Wall mural and culture festival. The Star Blanket Project has sites across the city and honours those impacted by missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit peoples — while also advancing the important conversation on this subject.
The Star-Blanket-inspired design by Lavallee speaks to his Métis heritage and aspires to engage with Indigenous communities across the country. In First Nations’ cultures, Star Blankets are bestowed as gifts of the highest honour. The Star Blanket’s geometric representation of the ever-reliable morning star is intended to protect, empower, and give comfort and hope to those wearing it over their shoulders.
“The Helen Betty Osborne building is a place where the university and our neighbors come together to share, learn, and build brighter futures for young people in the community through impactful programs that honour Indigenous culture,” said Dr. Annette Trimbee, President and Vice-Chancellor at UWinnipeg. “Just as a Star Blanket honours those who are wrapped inside, this mural will honour and empower the many community members and learners who pass through these doors.”
“Wii Chii Waakanak has always been a place where people come together — so it’s especially fitting that this beautiful artwork wrapping our building is being created in partnership with a group of talented artists and dedicated community members who want to beautify and celebrate our neighborhood while raising awareness,” said Jarita Greyeyes, Director, Community Learning & Engagement at UWinnipeg.
A community block party will be held on Saturday, August 18 from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm to celebrate the building’s transformation. It will take place in the parking lot behind the building, located at 511 Ellice Avenue. There will be a free BBQ and performances by Boogey the Beat and Studio 393.
The Wall-to-Wall mural and culture festival is coordinated by Synonym Art Consultation and takes place across Winnipeg, Manitoba on original lands of Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation and Treaty 1 Territory. It sees the creation of multiple indoor and outdoor murals across the city and celebrates each new work of art with unique events. The festival culminates in late September with a huge block party that coincides with Nuit Blanche, bringing together diverse communities around art, music, dance, and more.
About Kenneth Lavallee:
The artistic practice of Kenneth Lavallee reveal a strong interest in translating a primarily two-dimensional practice into tangible experiences which occupy physical spaces has been motivating my work as of late. Traditional ideas of balance, order, harmony and interconnectedness gathered from both Indigenous and Western learning continue to guide Lavalle’s work as he explores and respond to the spaces and opportunities around him. Be it through sculpture, large scale mural, animation or object design, Lavalle aims to create work that successfully and seamlessly incorporates itself to the world at large. Kenneth is of Metis descent, and lives and works in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Treaty 1 territory and birthplace of the Metis Nation).
About Annie Beach:
Beach is a visual artist currently acquiring a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba’s School of Art. Beach is a Cree and Saulteaux woman who was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba; however, she is also proud to say her family is from Peguis First Nation. Her current work focuses on personal and stereotyped ideas of identity, and embracing and exaggerating said stereotypes in order to address them head on. Her work focuses as well on the issue of #MMIWG and oversexualization of Indigenous women and girls in a sex-positive manner. Beach’s work varies from paintings on canvas to collage and cut paper. She also has created a number of murals with community members and youth throughout the North and West End of the city. Her mural projects have been collaborative, with content focused on youth participation and community values.
About Synonym Art Consultation:
Synonym Art Consultation is a curatorial collective based in Winnipeg, Manitoba on the original lands of Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation and Treaty 1 Territory. Synonym is committed to providing meaningful employment and mentorship opportunities to artists and to facilitate the celebration of art and culture with unique, inclusive, community-minded events that serve as safer spaces for diverse populations. Through our mural and culture festival, Wall-to-Wall, we strive to cultivate a grassroots contemporary street-art movement in our city and to participate in hyperlocal and international dialogues around important issues, such as Indigenous rights, social responsibility, and innovative economic development, rooted in the arts.
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UWinnipeg is noted for academic excellence, Indigenous inclusion, environmental commitment, small class sizes, and campus diversity. UWinnipeg is committed to improving access to post-secondary education for all individuals, especially those taking non-traditional paths to university.