Winnipeg mural festival teams up Indigenous artists with local youth

Public art has the ability to inspire, educate and bring together communities.

One Indigenous artist is hoping a new mural in Winnipeg will do just this.

Annie Beach, who is Cree and Saulteaux, is designing a large-scale mural with the help of community members in the city.

Over the next week she’s leading workshops where participants are required to do some self-reflection.

“I wanted to base this mural and this workshop on this idea of how place can effect those around you and your individual place when you’re thinking about…the grand scheme of things,” said Beach.

“This idea of people, land, animals, plants and how all those things are interconnected.”

During the workshops participants create collages, which Beach will then use as references to design the final piece.

The project is part of this year’s Wall to Wall Mural and Culture Festival taking place in September and is a mentorship between Beach and local youth.

The festival is responsible for more than 50 murals located in the city’s core areas.

Many of the murals, like the Star Blanket Project, represent Indigenous cultures.

“For both Native and non-Native people it’s important to think about the history of this place and what it means to an individual,” said Beach. “Especially if you’re a settler or newcomer thinking about this history that maybe isn’t as apparent to you as an individual.”

Synonym Art Consultation puts on the festival in partnership with other local organizations.

The group has teamed up with Studio 393, a youth-led arts studio, to facilitate the workshops with the end goal of engaging local youth.

Osani Balkaran, an instructor with Studio 393, said the space allows youth to find a passion.

Balkaran himself started attending programming at the studio when he was 12 before eventually working there.

“You can see that progression over time when people start coming around often enough,” said Balkaran. “They sort of zone in on one thing…and then you get to see them do really well and take that skill and apply it to different things.”

This year’s festival will produce another 15 murals including another mentorship project with First Nations artist Peatr Thomas and youth from Studio 393.

Beach’s mural will be placed in the city’s North End.

The festival runs from Sept. 1-30.