Living In An Art Gallery

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Winnipeg is a breath away from Canada’s heart. I live at the city’s center in The Exchange District. In 1887 when wheat was prairie gold, savvy entrepreneurs organized a grain exchange and turned this area into a thriving business district. We own a condo in a century old warehouse built by hardware merchant and Winnipeg mayor James Ashdown.

Many of the Exchange District’s corporate residents have been devoted art patrons, so our streets are studded with larger than life public art pieces. I see three when I walk out my front door.

caribou crossing portage and mainStraight ahead eleven massive caribou ford a river. A trio scales the steep bank while the others battle for their lives in the rushing water. Their antlers sprawl like bony tree branches in silhouette against the downtown skyscrapers. The sculpture Seal River Crossing by Peter Sawatsky reminds me that my city stands on land that was once home…

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A Quick Visit to Assiniboine Park

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walking assiniboine parkOn Friday morning our out-of-town guests had a few hours free so I offered to take them on a meander through Winnipeg’s signature park -The  Assiniboine Park.trolley car assiniboine parkI had no idea the park had started a trolley service- but what a great idea.trolley bus assiniboine parkWe were able to take a double-decker bus all the way from the front gate to the English Gardens.anil in gardenMost of the  flowers in the English Garden aren’t in full bloom yet but we did seepoppies assiniboine park

some lovely poppies.mosesWe visited the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden.  Mol is Winnipeg’s most famous sculptor. Here Beena and I pose with Mol’s depiction of Moses. bison topiary gardenIn the Topiary Garden we saw a bison made out of dried grasses andfrog musiciansa whole series of frog musicians fashioned out of plants and flowers. winnie hte pooh statue assiniboine parkMy friend Meena was especially interested in this statue telling the story of Winnie the Pooh who was…

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A Sculpture Garden Stroll in Winnipeg’s French Quarter

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front door ash down warehouseOn Wednesday my visitors Meena and Beena and I set off on a stroll through St. Boniface which is the French Quarter of Winnipeg. First Beena and I posed for a photo outside the Ashdown Warehouse where Dave and I live.selkirk settlers Meena and BeenaWe paused for another photo at the end of our street beside the sculpture of the Selkirk Settlers. I love this piece with the mother cradling her baby and looking back at her home in Scotland which she will never see again. The kilted father and son stride forward with confidence and determination towards their new home in Canada, the father’s guiding hand resting gently on his son’s back. human rights museumAs we crossed the Provencher Bridge we took a photo with Winnipeg’s New Human Rights Museum in the background. It doesn’t open till September so Meena and Beena will have to come back for another visit to Winnipeg so…

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The Pigeon King

pigeon king curtis wiebeI walk by this large crowned bird off to the side of the Air Canada building on Portage Avenue almost everyday.  The other morning I decided to stop and take some photos and find out more about the sculpture.

pigeon king by curtis wiebeThe piece is called The Pigeon King and it was created by Curtis Wiebe who is a filmmaker, animator, musician and sculptor. He is also the founder of the Winnipeg Puppet Collective. Curtis teaches art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Canadian Mennonite University.  

Curtis Wiebe with The Pigeon King -photo by Wayne Glowacki- Winnipeg Free Press

Curtis Wiebe with The Pigeon King -photo by Wayne Glowacki- Winnipeg Free Press

Curtis studied art at the University of Manitoba and I discovered from a 2009 article in the Winnipeg Free Press that he is from Drake, Saskatchewan, my mother’s home town. feet of pigeon

Curtis’ pigeon is pretty plump and has enormous feet. I guess it is appropriate that a bird of flight is outside the Air Canada building although The Pigeon King’s size might hamper him during take-off.

Other sculptures in downtown Winnipeg….

Have You Lost Your Marbles?

James Bond Is From Winnipeg

Women Soldiers



Categories: Downtown, Sculptures | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Trees at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Four art pieces with connections to trees are currently displayed in the sky lit foyer on the gallery floor of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Each sculpture is very different. barb hunt root dressRoot Dress by Barb Hunt is at the top of the stairs and draws the immediate attention of visitors. A group of high school girls on one of my tours discussed how they thought the dress symbolizes the way women are the backbone and roots of their families holding things together.

daphne by arpDaphne is by Jean Arp. Most of my touring students don’t know Daphne’s story and they are intrigued by the dramatic tale from Greek mythology of the beautiful Daphne who was being pursued by the god Apollo. Her father Laden was a river god and she begged him to help save her from Apollo. He did so by turning her into a tree.

poet by ossip zadkineThe Poet by Ossip Zadkine is a musician who is half tree and half person. Children have fun picking out all the tree parts on one half of the sculpture- the branches for his arms, the roots for his foot, the growth rings inside his thigh, the writing etched into the bark on his leg, the pruned branch on his calf and the leaves on his hands. The kids on my tours have pointed out lots of tree details I hadn’t noticed. tree of life

Tree of Life is by Cecil Richards. I tell the students who visit the gallery that many religions have a Tree of Life as a symbol for creation. Inevitably a child on the tour will suggest that the couple inside the tree is Adam and Eve and they share the Biblical story with us. I tell the kids that in Ancient Egypt there was also a religious story about a couple named Isis and Osiris who emerged from a tree. 

The presence and proximity of these tree pieces has made for an interesting addition to my tours and has inspired lots of comments and ideas from the children and young people who visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts about the Winnipeg Art Gallery….

Up on the Roof Top

Landscapes For the End of Time

Lynne Cohen- Interior Scapes

Categories: Art, Sculptures, Winnipeg Art Gallery | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

On a Carousel

carousel by BGL Cool Beach WinnipegYes. That’s my husband Dave riding on a carousel whose seat is made from an old shopping cart.  It’s actually a piece of cutting edge public art that’s part of the Cool Gardens installation being featured in  Winnipeg this summer. 

north face exchange district richardson buildingOne Saturday morning our friends Fran and Marge drove into the city to have breakfast with us. Before we tucked into our omelets at the Free Press Cafe we decided we needed some exercise so we went for a ninety minute walk to check out all the great public art in our neighborhood. 

carousel by BGL St. Boniface GardenAt the St. Boniface Sculpture Garden which I’ve visited often in the past, I noticed there were several new pieces of art including Carousel made from recycled crowd barriers, metal fences and grocery carts attached to an old light post. riding the carousel st. boniface sculpture garden cool gardens

The guys hopped right on to try out the interactive piece of art and pushed themselves around the carousel. Because we were on a long walk Dave still brought his cane but he didn’t need it on the carousel. carousel metal sculpture

The sculpture was designed by Jasmin Bilodeau, Sebastian Giguere and Nicolas Laverdiere known collectively as BGL from Quebec City.  Apparently at times acrobats perform in and around the carousel as an interactive feature of the art piece. 

One of the reasons I love living in this area of the city is that there is always some new public art work to see. 

Check out these other posts about garden art………..

Art in the Garden

Between Dog and Wolf

What is It?

La Promise


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Have You Lost Your Marbles?

I’ve been admiring the huge marbles installed on Portage Avenue for several months now and the other day I finally decided to take time to photograph some of them. The twenty marble sculptures were installed on July 31.  As this photo illustrates they come in two different sizes. 

The marbles which are made of fibre glass and covered in automotive paint are in many different places along Portage Avenue. Some are in the median between the lanes of traffic, others are in parks and flower beds and some are on street corners.

Artist Erica Swendrowski said she wanted her installation to show how everyday objects can make life extraordinary. Some of the marbles have living plants in them, although now in fall they don’t look nearly as lovely as they did in summer.

The larger than life marbles which the artist hopes will become conversation pieces are slated to remain on Portage Avenue for at least three years, but perhaps for as long as five years. They come in a whole variety of colors and have many different designs. 

I like the way different views of the city skyline are reflected in many of the marbles.

The artist Swendrowski said in a Winnipeg Free Press article that her goal for the project was to create something that would bring a smile to everyone’s face and be fun for people of all ages. I think she’s accomplished that goal.
What do you think of the Marbles on Portage?

Categories: Downtown, Sculptures | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Leo Mol Sculpture Garden

When our friend Rebekah was here spending a few days with us we took her to the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park. The garden is filled with beautiful flowers.  It was awash with bright pinks, purples, reds and yellows on our visit. Can you see Dave and Rebekah hiding in the flowers in the picture below?I’m sure in fall and spring the garden will feature a different but equally stunning color scheme with the flowers that are in bloom at that time. Here Dave is showing Rebekah had to snap open the mouth of a snapdragon. 

The name snapdragon comes from the flowers’ response to having their “throats” squeezed, which makes the “mouth” of the blossom snap open like a dragon’s mouth.

Leo Mol who died in 2009 is probably Winnipeg’s most famous and prolific artist. You can find his sculptures all over the world. His likenesses of three different popes are in the Vatican and he sculpted American presidents Dwight Eishenhower and John F. Kennedy as well as British prime minister Winston Churchill. Despite his international fame, Leo Mol remained determinedly loyal to his adopted home in Winnipeg where he found a safe haven after leaving Ukraine in the 1940’s. 

The Leo Mol sculpture garden has more than 300 of Leo Mol’s works many of them donated by the artist.  There are two buildings on site– one a gallery featuring some of his smaller art pieces and the other the old school-house which once served as Mol’s workshop. Leo Mol sculpted such a variety of subjects. 

Biblical figures like MosesMythical figures like Europa and the bull

Fellow Canadian artists like A.Y. Jackson, member of the famous Group of Seven

Sculptures influenced by his Ukrainian heritage like The Blind Bandurist

Likenesses of famous Canadians like William Stephenson–the spy called IntrepidSculptures of ordinary Canadians like this Family GroupWorld famous figures like Queen Elizabeth

I especially enjoyed watching the National Film Board movie Leo Mol In Light and Shadow being shown in his school-house studio. It tells the story of how Leo was reunited with his sister after not being able to communicate with his family back in Ukraine for over fifty years. I learned that besides creating sculptures Leo also designed and made stained glass windows. 

The Leo Mol Sculpture garden is a serene and rejuvenating kind of place. There are huge shady trees to cool you, the scent of thousands of flowers, the sound of water running into the lily pond and plenty of excellent art to look at and think about. 

Rebekah took this picture of Dave and me enjoying the day in the Leo Mol Garden. 

You might want to check out these other posts I have done about Leo Mol sculptures in Winnipeg

Tom Lamb- Mr. North

James Bond is  From Winnipeg

Tree Children

Categories: Famous Citizens, Parks, Sculptures | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment


Is the container half empty or half full? That’s the classic question posed by a new sculpture in the reading garden at Winnipeg’s Millenium Library. It’s a giant beaker, like the sort you’d find in a science lab. It features fog, cascading water and at night a light show. Created by architect Bill Pechet of Vancouver the sculpture is made from 22,000 kilograms of steel.

The Winnipeg Free Press article announcing the installation of the artwork is headlined Ambitious Nothingness and a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report says Emptyful is causing raised eyebrows in Winnipeg because of its $575,000 price tag.

My friend Rebekah, who was visiting from Minneapolis reaches out to touch the water raining down inside the bottom half of the emptyful container. A poster inside the library explains that the sculpture gets its name from the fact that the prairie surrounding Winnipeg is full of empty, boundless space where weather, light, the seasons and people come and go. 

The open spaces of the sculpture are meant to frame and highlight Winnipeg architecture. The shape of the container is supposed to suggest an experiment because Winnipeg is a constant experiment and a product of imagination and knowledge.

Emptyful is an impressive piece of art but I do wonder why a Vancouver and not a Manitoba artist was asked to make it. Bill Pechet the sculpture’s designer admits to never having been in Winnipeg till he came here to create the sculpture. I wonder what someone from our province who had more intimate and longterm experience with the local landscape would have created.
Emptyful is lit by a variety of colors at night and those colors will apparently change with the seasons. Emptyful is thought-provoking. Its size is certainly awe-inspiring and it makes an interesting addition to the city’s collection of public art.

If you found this post interesting you might also want to check out………

Winnipeg’s Millenium Library

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Seal River Crossing

Just two blocks from our home is a massive bronze sculpture called Seal River Crossing. It stands in a plaza between the Fairmont Hotel and the Richardson Building. I like to go and look at it at different times of day and from different angles. It depicts a herd of caribou fording the Seal River. The Seal River is one of the four major rivers in northern Manitoba. It is over 150 miles long and  runs into Hudson Bay. The river which is too dangerous to use as a transportation route is traveled annually by only a small number of very skilled kayakers looking for a challenging adventure. Yet herds of caribou cross this unpredictable river regularly as they make their way across the northern tundra. Looking at the sculpture from the rear the water looks fairly deep.Crossing the river is no easy venture for the caribou. It can be fatal. I took this picture early one morning and liked the way a younger, smaller caribou was resting it’s head on the back of the larger caribou as they navigated the formidable river.  The more experienced mature caribou was bearing some of the younger one’s weight as well as providing direction and stability. 

There are eleven caribou in the sculpture and the three lead animals have just arrived on the far side of the river and are climbing the embankment to make their way out of the water onto dry land.Seal River Crossing was created by artist Peter Sawatsky, who grew up in the Mennonite village of Sommerfeld in southern Manitoba. According to the Loch Gallery website, Peter who was born in 1951, studied at Red River Community College and began his art career doing landscape and wildlife paintings.  He gained international recognition as a bird carver before deciding to set up a foundry and begin working in bronze. Richardson & Sons Ltd. commissioned this work in 2007 to celebrate their 150th year of business in Manitoba.Peter Sawatsky has done a masterful job of depicting the grace and beauty of the caribou’s antlers. Interestingly both male and female caribou have antlers. Caribou biologist Doug Urquart writes that males shed their antlers each November, while females carry their antlers all winter, shedding them only after having given birth in spring.  Caribou antlers can weigh up to 20 pounds and have a span of up to 112 centimeters. One morning as I was walking by the sculpture I noticed a little boy had crawled up onto it.I had never thought of Crossing Seal River as an interactive piece of art before, but this small fellow was clearly in his element “riding the reindeer” as his Mom watched and took pictures of him.The Seal River is very remote and isolated.  Accessing it is expensive and must be done first by plane and then by a long hiking journey. Consequently very few people have ever had the opportunity to see the caribou crossing Seal River. Artist Peter Sawatsky is one of the fortunate few to have witnessed the sight. Thanks to his remarkable talent and dedication those of us who live in Winnipeg can view the heart-stopping grandeur of the caribou crossing Seal River as often as we like. 

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