Winnipeg Arts Council

Furrows on the Land (The Field) / Furrows in the Land (The Wheel)

Route 97 streetcar to the Winnipeg Agriculture College. Source: University of Manitoba Archives

Furrows on the Land (The Field)
Location: East wall of the McGillivray overpass

Furrows in the Land (The Wheel)
Location: Seel Station  

Furrows are long, narrow trenches made in the ground by a plow or a wheel.

The history of collective movement in Winnipeg shows innovation in technology thanks to a unique mix of entrepreneurial spirit and necessity. The Red River cart and Winnipeg's streetcar system are the most well-known modes of transportation in our regional history, both of which once traveled alongside what is now the SouthWest Rapid Transitway (the BLUE Line).

The Red River cart came into use in the early 1800s throughout Metis settlements and was used to haul goods and people across the prairie terrain. One well-worn path is that of the Pembina Trail, which was used by carters and settlers to travel between Selkirk and Fort Pembina. This trail eventually became Pembina Highway.

The Red River cart was made up  entirely of wood and bison hide. Without the use of metal, it could be easily dismantled and repaired enroute.

The Wheel is an imagined fossil of a Red River cart wheel. The  wooden “imprint” wheel that was used as a template for this sculpture was hand-built by Georges Fayant, a Metis man living in Regina. The wooden wheel was then used to etch out a large block of Manitoban Tyndall stone. This carved-out space of a life-size Red River cart wheel represents the material passing and decomposing of all the natural materials that made up the original carts.

The historical importance of these cart remains as an object that makes its mark and leaves a trace even though it is long gone, left to the elements. The cart and its wheel continue to be a symbol of the Metis people and a record of the early settlement days in Manitoba.

 Not long after the Red River Carts made their journeys along the Pembina Trail, the first electric streetcar began operating in Winnipeg. Streetcars were able to move people efficiently in a growing city that had few cars. The passengers could be passive in their journey, not worrying about directions or terrain while remaining protected from the elements. 

In 1912, streetcar tracks were laid near present-day Pembina Highway and streetcar service opened throughout Fort Garry all the way to the Winnipeg Agriculture College, which eventually became the University of Manitoba.

The streetcar line to the Agricultural College was called Route 96. On this route, passengers no doubt settled into their seats and took in the view of the passing landscape. The track would have taken them from the busy city centre, through the edge of the town and out into the prairies where fields and small settlements were still present. This landscape, one of open sky, long horizons and cultured fields is still so familiar to any Winnipegger.

The Field, installed on the east wall of the McGillivray overpass, suggests a long panoramic agricultural scene memorializing the destination of this very route. A very broad arc made of strips of weathering steel extends over both walls, mimicking the view of rows of cultivated fields. It is an imagined experience of commuting on the original Winnipeg streetcar to the Agricultural College as it may have appeared one hundred years ago.

 -Jeanette Johns


This work is was created through the Winnipeg Arts Council’s Public Art Program in collaboration with Winnipeg Transit, PCL, and Plenary Group as part of Winnipeg's SouthWest Rapid Transitway expansion project.

Jeanette Johns

Jeanette Johns is an artist who grew up in Winnipeg and currently resides in Montreal. Her practice is rooted in the act of observation with a particular interest in two-dimensional representations of space. Johns has taken part in exhibitions and residencies across Canada and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include To Step is to Rise at Lisa Kehler Art + Projects in Winnipeg and The Weight of the Earth's Curve at Arprim in Montreal. Collections include TD Bank, Bibliotheque et archives Nationales du Quebec and the Crown Collection. Johns holds a BFA from the University of Manitoba and an MFA from Concordia University. She is currently in Residence at Le Fonderie Darling until 2022.

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