Connecting Roots Along the Red River: Public Art on the BLUE Rapid Transit Line

Artist: Ian August, Jeanette Johns, Public City Architecture and Urban Ink, Bill Burns, Cindy Mochizuki and Kelty Miyoshi McKinnon, Warren Carther, Tiffany Shaw-Collinge
Program: Collaborations, Commissions
Location: BLUE Rapid Transit Line
Medium: various
Date: 2019


The public artworks created for the BLUE Rapid Transit Line tell stories and evoke ideas around ecology and natural history, historic north-south trails, civic planning, and Indigenous land experiences and histories. Following the river, the people, and their interactions in this area over time, these artists weave and connect the meanings of routes in the Red River region and the neighbourhoods of Fort Garry.

Beaumont Station

Ian August's Rooster Town Kettle recalls stories of warmth and sharing from the history of the Rooster Town community: "When there was a knock at the door the immediate response was to should, 'comin in, there's room' while jumping up to put the kettle on for tea." The sculpture also addresses how a population of 250 people living on the fringe of a Canadian city could have such unacceptable lack of access to clean water, an issue that is still relevant to so many Canadians living on reserves today.

McGillivray Overpass and Seel Station

Jeanette Johns' Furrows on the Land (The Field) and Furrows in the Land (The Wheel) responds to the history of collective movement in Winnipeg and innovations in technology that came about through a unique mix of entrepreneurial spirit and necessity, specifically recalling the journeys travelled near what is now Pembina Highway by the Red River ox cart and Winnipeg's streetcar system.

Clarence Station

ROW ROW ROW by Public City Architecture and Urban Ink was inspired by the signeurial lot system that was used to divide settled land in Fort Garry, and throughout Winnipeg, into long, narrow properties running from the river and into the adjacent prairies.

Chevrier Station

Salt Fat Sugar & Your Water is Safe by Bill Burns considers food, animals, adn the farm in relation to the commons, trade, and spiritual traditions. The artist is especially interested in invoking basic elements of life and survival such as water, salt, fat, and sugar. With this artwork, Burns attempts to shed light on a set of historical, social, and economic relations within advanced industrialism that often go unnoticed.

Plaza Station

テンサイ (Tensai) by Cindy Mochizuki and Kelty Miyoshi McKinnon (PFS Studio) explores the relationship between the sugar beet and Japanese Canadian history. This artwork site is adjacent to the historic Manitoba Sugar Company building and calls into question the narratives that are 'unseen' to the public eye, such as the history of 4,000 of the 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were stripped of their rights and interned during WWII.

Bishop Grandin Overpass and Chancellor Station

Warren Carther's (Un)Still Life with Spoked Wheels was envisioned through research of the historical transportation routes from Winnipeg to the U.S. and the incredible ingenuity of the Red River cart. Designed by the Métis people, the Red River cart was the first mode of transportation used in the fur trade to take goods south along a route that is still used today.

Markham Station

In Métis Land Use, Tiffany Shaw-Collinge explores the land rights for Métis people. One part of the artwork highlights the Red River region around 1870 and cartographies around harvesting hay, Red River carts, berry picking, hunting, and sugaring to discuss long-standing use and occupancy of land by the Métis people. The other part focuses on Métis scrip and points to a critical chapter in how land rights were given to Métis people after 1885 and the government's advancement of extinguishing Aboriginal title for the Métis.

Read the original Call to Artists to learn about the sites and concepts to which the artists were responding.

The integration of artwork into Winnipeg's Rapid Transitway is the first project of its kind in our city. Through this public-private partnership, the Winnipeg Arts Council commissioned these artworks in collaboration with Winnipeg Transit, PCL, and Plenary Group. 

In the media:

Artist Biography

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