There are lots of great reasons to visit The Forks, right? The history, the food, the drinks, the shops, the events… we could go on and on (and we often do!). But one thing we definitely don’t want you to forget about is the art!
All over The Forks site, there are stunning murals, sculptures, installments and other amazing pieces of artwork that are just waiting to be admired, and sometimes, we get so used to seeing them, we just walk on by without stopping to smell the paint, so to speak.
So grab your walking shoes and your art-enthusiast ascot and try this little tour we’ve mapped out; it should only take about 30 minutes (and certainly doesn’t include ALL the art on-site) but it’s a great start to get yourself acquainted with some beautiful work we're lucky enough to be able to view for free.
Stop 1: Totem Doodem murals
We'll start the tour in The Forks Market. If you’re in The Common and facing the bar, head over to the hallway to your left and take a look at the six super colourful Indigenous-inspired images that fill each of the archways. Oji-Cree artist Jordan Stranger, in collaboration with Synonym Art Consultation, added these pieces to the market in the fall of 2018; the words “Totem Doodem” on each piece point to the idea of spiritual symbols serving as an emblem for a tribe or family.
Stop 2: Manitoba 150 decal
Head to the exit at the south end of the hallway and go outside. Take a look to your right and you should see the brand-spankin’ new decal created by award-winning graphic designer Jonato Dalayoan (also in collaboration with Synonym). The intention for this particular piece was to create a visual that represents the landscape of our fair province in an abstract way. Take your time and really dig into this one; you’ll see Dalayon has infused elements of our agriculture, our cities and, of course, our ever-amazing giant prairie sky.
Stop 3: Niimaamaa
Follow the path toward the train bridge (if you’re a directional person, you’ll be heading west, but let’s be honest, who understands instructions like that?); you can't miss it, just keep an eye out for the bright mural hanging overhead. Cross the bridge and head to the spot formerly known as South Point, now Niizhoziibean, renamed around a year ago to honour our city’s Indigenous heritage and prominent place alongside the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. In this treed area, you’ll find the majestic Niimaamaa sculpture, a word meaning “my mother” in Cree, Ojibwe and Metis.
Created by artists KC Adams, Jaimie Isaace and Val Vint, made of steel, copper and core ten metal and standing at a massive 30-feet tall, Niimaamaa represents motherhood, Mother Earth and new beginnings. She has seven strands of hair, one for each of the seven sacred teachings of love, respect, courage, humility, honesty, wisdom and truth. She is pregnant, acting as a water carrier and her gaze is focused between the water and the sky; her copper dress represents prosperity and strength; she is water, land and stars; she is kneeling toward the sun, a motion that signals rebirth.
It's a truly awe-inspiring and nuanced piece and well worth a few extra minutes of your time to take it all in.
Stop 4: Path Through Time/Wall Through Time sculpture
Head back over the bridge the way you came and continue straight. You’ll pass by the Oodena Celebration Circle (which has tons of its own really interesting artistic elements), the Children’s Museum and, eventually, you will land upon the Path Through Time sculpture. The sculpture features two bronze shells and a limestone centrepiece and depicts the history of The Forks, including floods, forts and fur. The piece is specifically located on an Indigenous campsite and trade centre from thousands of years ago as a way to protect the site.
Stop 5: Cool Gardens
Just a short walk away, heading towards the Esplanade Riel, you’ll find part of Cool Gardens, a public exhibition of contemporary garden and art installations which combine the talents of artists, designers and architects to create something, well… really cool. There are seven pieces currently up in and near The Forks, but for the sake of this art walk, we’ll focus on the 2019 winner, Keep Your Cool, a piece by ft3 Architecture Landscape Interior Design.
The piece was designed with the restorative powers of cloud-watching in mind and the imaginative fun that comes along with trying to figure out what the shape of each puffy bunch reminds you of. Also, in a completely opposing vein, the installation also represents the stress that can occur when that dreaded thought cloud, or “typing awareness indicator,” is churning away while you wait for a text response to come through on your phone. Hence “Keep Your Cool” — clever, huh?
The huge piece is made of layers of interwoven rope that emulate cloud formations and provide a canopy of shade on the grass, perfect for cloud watching on a late summer afternoon.
Stop 6: Mural honouring Jai Pereira
Head back up the way you came, and cut across the CN Field in front of the stage and you’ll find yourself at the Skateboard Plaza Park where a mural honouring the late founder of Sk8 Skates and community advocate Jai Pereira sits right behind the Winnipeg sign (aka the perfect spot for an extra awesome selfie). English artist Mr Cenz was the man behind the bluey-purpley graffiti-inspired portrait, a stunning way to remember an important member of our community.
Stop 7: Wall-to-Wall Mural and Cultural Festival murals
Start walking back toward The Forks Market, but stop when you hit the parkade. Head inside and take a (very safe and vehicle-aware) gander at the series of murals based on the four elements on each of the four levels of the parkade. There are two murals inspired by each element — water, wind, earth and fire — created by artists Ness Lee and Jerry Rugg as part of the Wall-to-Wall Mural and Culture Festival run by Synonym Art Consultation every fall. Each of the elements is represented by a feminine character in a variety of semi-abstract scenarios brought to life with rich, bright colours and emotive imagery.
And that’s it! A short jaunt from the parkade will bring you back to the main market area where the art walk started. Of course, there are PLENTY more murals, sculptures and installations to check out at The Forks site (and more are in the works, just you wait!), so we highly suggest going off on your own adventures to find more pieces that speak to you.
Oh, and don’t forget to tag us at #MeetMeAtTheForks on Instagram and let us know how your art walk went!