This is the biggest canvas Bria Fernandes has ever worked on.
"It’s ginormous," says the Winnipeg fine arts student while taking stock of how much wall is left to paint in the tunnel at McMicken Street and Ellice Avenue.
The artwork, called Dreamscape, is part of the eighth annual Wall-to-Wall Mural & Culture Festival and is a colourful return to live mural-making, which organizers put on hold last year owing to the pandemic.
Fernandes’ submission is one of two large-scale projects being painted in Winnipeg’s core this month — the second mural, coincidentally called Crane Dreamscape, is by Vancouver-based artist Priscilla Yu and is being installed behind the Dollarama at 295 Portage Ave.
It’s not just that the canvas is large, it’s also that the medium and subject matter are a world away from the oils Fernandes typically uses to paint realistic figures for gallery shows. The mural features a cartoonish woman surrounded by bright, trippy flora and fauna.
She is outside her comfort zone, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
"I know I can do it, but it’s still really scary," she says, noting the parallels between her experience and the design. "(The mural is about) being thrown into an unfamiliar situation in life and this is where growth and opportunity can arise in this weird land."
Fernandes is currently studying at the Alberta University of the Arts and has previously been involved in Wall-to-Wall as a mural assistant. This is her first time leading a mural of her own creation and she’s glad for the painting help from other local artists and mentor Mike Valcourt, who painted the original mural on the McMicken Street tunnel in 2000. (As a health and safety precaution, the festival is working with a small group of muralists, all of whom have been fully vaccinated.)
She’s also grateful to festival organizers from Synonym Art Consultation and Graffiti Art Programming for the opportunity.
"It feels special that they chose me," Fernandes says. "Everything (Synonym) does is great… they’re adding colour to the city in places that people won’t normally go."
The Wall-to-Wall festival runs through the month of September and features a series of in-person events and public art installations.
In addition to the two full-scale murals, the festival will be installing 13 pre-printed panel murals across the city. The photographs, paintings and digital illustrations were created by Manitoba and international artists and selected from more than 200 submissions.
The festival has partnered with Martha Street Studio to present the show gathered together, which runs at the gallery at 11 Martha St. until Oct. 8. The exhibit features work by artists Lido Pimienta, Chief Lady Bird, Isaac Murdoch, Whess Harman and Lapiztola. This Thursday, Pimienta — a Polaris Music Prize-winning musician — will be speaking about her visual art during an online talk with the Uniter Speaker Series at 7 p.m. Visit walltowallwpg.com/gathered-together for details.
On Sept. 24, Peg City Car Co-op is hosting a celebration and fundraising event for Wall-to-Wall at the Beer Can at 1 Granite Way. Local drag artists will be performing throughout the evening and $10 beer and tacos coupons are available, with a portion of proceeds going to the festival.
Visit walltowallwpg.com for a full list of events and mural locations.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.