Assessing street art in the West End
Marginalized communities need a voice in the city. Giving voice and space in the neighbourhood for art that embraces the people, the history, and the buildings in the community is something the Winnipeg West End Biz is looking to achieve.
To do this, they have partnered with UWinnipeg geography student Anya Ingram. With the guidance of her advisor Dr. Marc Vachon (Department of Geography), she will evaluate the community’s inventory of public mural art within the West End neighborhood of Winnipeg, and help determine how murals may be linked to the commercialization and branding of public space.
Joe Kornelsen from the West End Biz notes that “the history of our neighbourhood and our city is written into our murals, our streets and our buildings.”
“We are excited to work with The University of Winnipeg to dig deeper to learn more about our community and its built environment,” he said. “Through this process we will be able to create a more authentic tour experience for West End residents and visitors to our community.”
Ingram has already designed an informative map of the murals of the West End.
“This research explores the relationships between public art and place making within an urban neighborhood,” said Vachon. “Anya’s goal is to create a framework which can inform mural-based tourism; ensuring that it is carefully considered to ensure the public art positively represents the community and adds to their sense of place.”
The next step in her research includes gathering background information on murals in the area by artists, and the dates they were created. Ingram will also explore the artists’ and community members’ attitudes toward the murals and help understand the role of public art and its location within public space. This will help create a framework on how murals, as a form of public art, can be a positive way to help reflect all the voices in the community, as perceived by the community.
“Streets comprise an enormous amount of our urban landscape and they are almost always taken for granted,” shared Ingram. “People don’t often notice the qualities of the street in a conscious manner.”
Ingram will be proceeding with interviews* this summer, and coordinating workshops together with the community this fall, to ensure all voices big and small are included in the assessment. This will help the West End Biz determine what is necessary for a space to showcase a mural most effectively for people to be able to enjoy them.
This research project will be the basis for Ingram’s honour thesis. She is in her final year of her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in geography.
*The project incorporates all the guidelines regarding research in time of COVID-19 by the University and by the province of Manitoba.
Naniece Ibrahim, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg