Winnipeggers may be wondering about the canoes lighting up at the junction of St. Anne’s and St. Mary’s Roads in the heart of Old St. Vital.
Local artist Collin Zipp was inspired by a visit to the St. Vital Museum across the street, where he saw a birch bark canoe and historical photos from the 1950 flood when the junction was under water and canoes were used to transport people and supplies. “What drew me to the idea of using canoes as a source material for this work was the resilience that the people of St. Vital showed. The flood should not only be remembered as a time of despair but as a time when the community came together. The area also has a diverse and rich history. The 1820 Metis settlement is a major and important part of it.” - Collin Zipp
The artist celebrates this history and more with Watershed. Working with actual canoes, altered and stood on end, Zipp replaced the branding on these familiar objects with historical neighbourhood references to the 1820 Métis settlement; the old Windsor Theatre that was across the street; the original St. Vital archway where the streetcar line ended; the river lot where the sculpture now stands; and dates marking the levels of Winnipeg’s great floods.
Watershed was commissioned by the Winnipeg Arts Council in collaboration with the Old St. Vital BIZ, as part of the redevelopment of the transit plaza at the intersection of St. Anne’s and St. Mary’s Roads. The design of the plaza was a collaborative process. The BIZ's design team, HTFC Planning and Design worked closely with the artist so that the plaza would complement and highlight the artwork, providing a focal point for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The circular planters reference ripples in water. The planters and river lot paving pick up on the existing Old St. Vital BIZ streetscape elements while adding the subtle but playful rings in the pavement. The maple trees, along with shrubs, grasses and annuals provide a soft backdrop for the corner, working to enhance and complement the public art.
Watershed was officially opened by MP Dan Vandal, Mayor Brian Bowman, and Councillor Brian Mayes on National Canoe Day, June 26, 2018. Thanks to the St. Vital community for celebrating with us!
“ Anywhere in the world you are standing, you are standing upon histories. This particular place that we stand on now is no different. It is important that we respectfully recognize these footprints that are invisible to the eye but co-exist with us through time. With this artwork, I wanted to honour the important forms of gathering that have taken place on this site. From the Indigenous peoples who collected here near the meeting of these two important waterways to the 1820 Metis settlement--these trading routes, flood plains to market gardens, theatres, the old Firehall, and so much more. It is through this sculpture that I acknowledge our imprint along with these histories and the resilience of the communities and peoples of past and present. It was an honour to have been allowed to represent and interpret the complex histories and communities that have made this place unique.” – Collin Zipp (excerpt from spoken remarks)
This project was supported in part by the Government of Canada.