About the Public Art Program
A vibrant public art program reflects the identity of a city, gives voice to community and builds relationships between diverse groups. Public art enhances the urban environment by increasing the use and enjoyment of public space and building social cohesion. The exploration, through art, of the social, historical, cultural, and natural environment gives meaning to place and celebrates the unique character of Winnipeg, a city located on Treaty 1 Territory and the lands of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene Peoples and in the homeland of the Métis Nation.
The Winnipeg Arts Council works with City Administration, artists and communities to develop and integrate art into our public spaces where ideas can be encountered on a daily basis. In addition to artist commissions, infrastructure design projects and residencies in City departments, we facilitate community-based collaborations and public events.
Winnipeg's Public Art Program was recognized for demonstrating visionary leadership in Public Art programming with the Creative City Network of Canada's inaugural Award of Excellence in 2016. The award reinforces the broad respect for Winnipeg’s Public Art Program from local communities and artists, to national and international artists, to municipalities across Canada. The Program has been a model of best practices since its inception and has played a major role in making Winnipeg a leader in Public Art development and programming.
Calls-to-Artists for public art opportunities and announcements about events are made available online so please check often for updates, subscribe to the weekly e-Billboard, or contact tamara rae biebrich, Senior Project Manager - Public Art at 204.943.7668 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the Gallery of Public Artworks to find out more about projects that are in progress or completed.
Explore Winnipeg's Public Art with our printable guidebook. Free copies are available at our office, libraries, museums and more.
Follow us on Instagram @WAC_public_art
Artworks for public spaces are initiated by the Winnipeg Arts Council and commissioned through Requests for Proposals and/or Requests for Qualifications. Sites are determined through discussion and collaboration with the City of Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Arts Council develops projects based on site parameters, natural and historical factors and conceptual considerations. Calls-to-Artists are posted online as opportunities are developed.
WITH ART and Youth WITH ART
WITH ART matches artists with community groups to work on community identity, issues, and shared goals through the development of an art project. The project unfolds in two phases as the artists consult with community members to determine the goals of the art project. In the second phase the artwork is developed more fully and created in collaboration with the community. Once completed the artworks are celebrated in a public launch. Applications from community groups and artists are sought in January each year.
The program was expanded in 2013 by adding a specifically youth-focused component. Youth WITH ART was developed in response to priorities identified in Our Winnipeg and Ticket to the Future, Phase 2, to promote lifelong arts learning and youth engagement in arts activities. Supported through funding from WAC’s operating budget, and building on the success of WITH ART, Youth WITH ART follows the same community-engaged process but with a focus on youth aged 6 to 21.
A Program Description is downloadable here for more information.
View WITH ART projects, and the rest of WAC initiated public art, here .
The Winnipeg Arts Council initiates an Artist-in-Residence program where artists are placed in City of Winnipeg facilities for periods of time that vary in length from six to eighteen months. The goal of the program is to integrate artists and their ideas into City facilities to explore civic resources and history through the creative process. Artists are provided with an artist fee as they research, engage with the public and develop a project proposal. A commission fee is also provided for the creation of a permanent work of art for the site. Artist-in-Residence projects have taken place at the Living Prairie Museum (2006-07) where video artist Collin Zipp created a non-narrative interactive video work entitled lost_landscape now on display in the Museum’s interpretive centre. This was followed by a project at the City of Winnipeg Archives where filmmaker Paula Kelly made Souvenirs, a short documentary that explores Winnipeg’s identity in three distinct ways. In 2009, songwriter and musician Christine Fellows developed Reliquary/Reliquaire a multidisciplinary performance that included music, film and visual art while in residence at Le Musée de St. Boniface Museum. Erica Swendrowski was selected as Artist-in-Residence in Public Works in 2010 where she worked with community gardens, creating outdoor living rooms in several gardens throughout the city as well as installing Marbles on Portage, a series of sculptures lining the median and planters on Portage Avenue.
Collaborations with Other Partners
Art projects for public spaces are developed with other agencies such as the Bike Racks on Broadway, created with the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and the Exchange District Posterboard Project, a collaboration with the Exchange District BIZ. Watershed was commissioned in collaboration with the Old St. Vital BIZ. The Archambault Performance Pavilion was a partnership with the Transcona BIZ and YOU YOU + YOU was created in collaboration with the United Way of Winnipeg.
History of Winnipeg's Program
“We need art, in the arrangements of cities as well as in the other realms of life, to help explain life to us, to show us meanings, to illuminate the relationship between the life that each of us embodies and the life outside us.”
- Jane Jacobs The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Winnipeg is well known for its lively and progressive contemporary art community but until 2004 did not have a program or resources in place specifically for creating artworks in public places. That changed in 2004 when a new public art policy, developed by the Winnipeg Arts Council, was formally adopted by the City of Winnipeg. With the policy’s adoption came the release of funding allocated for the program. Unlike many North American cities, Winnipeg’s public art funding is not based on a percentage of capital development project budgets, but on an annual grant from the City’s capital budget.
The City of Winnipeg Public Art Policy is the result of the work of the Mayor’s Task Force on Public Art, formed by Mayor Glen Murray in May 2002 to research public art policy and programs in other municipalities, consult with experts in the field of public art, meet with City staff, and conduct a public education and consultation process in Winnipeg.
The public art program was an exciting addition to WAC’s role in Winnipeg’s art community and, through its national competitions, to the broader Canadian environment as well. The program is managed by a WAC staff member and overseen by a volunteer Public Art Committee composed of artists, art educators and administrators, curators, design professionals, community members, and a representative from the City’s Planning Department as well as a WAC board member. WAC works closely with various departments of the City, especially the Planning, Property and Development Department, to administer the program and to determine sites and ensure that safety and other technical guidelines are met. Competition proposals are reviewed by independent selection committees made up of artists and art professionals as well as community representatives. Integral to the development of the policy and program is respect for the work of artists. Public art can involve a wide variety of people and professions, perspectives and parameters. WAC believes that the work of the artist is central.
Since Winnipeg’s Public Art Policy was formally adopted by City Council on October 27, 2004, in a unanimous vote, the program has evolved into a nationally-recognized one that is diverse in expression, scale, media and locale. The goal is to insert the work of artists into city life where ideas can be encountered on a daily basis. The program consists of: local, national and international commissions; artist-on-design team in infrastructure approaches; an Artist-in-Residence in City facilities; a community-based program entitled WITH ART; and various partnership endeavours.