The Winnipeg Design Festival ended on a pretty happy note with a party Saturday night at Portage and Main. The WDF is an initiative of Storefront MB which is dedicated to advancing the awareness and appreciation of architecture, design and the built environment in Manitoba.
Richardson Plaza was filled with people and artists for the festival’s closing event. The party was the final event of the four day Winnipeg Design Festival. An Artist Installation entitled Adaption also took place simultaneously.
The installation brought the pedestrian corridor debate to the forefront where artists shared their visions and the public shared their ideas through discussion and a suggestion board.
Four local artist were on hand doing some paintings live on large panels. Vladimir Kraynyk, Gabrielle Funk, David Oro and Corijaye painted what they envisioned the corner to look like in the future if the windy corner is opened up to pedestrian traffic…or not.
Add to this, music, films, people, conversation, food and drink, and the intersection was transformed into a party.
It was nice to see lots of people out in the street late at night socializing and engaged in conversation. Having spent time in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, these cities have downtowns that are quite vibrant.
I remember being on Yonge St. in Toronto on a Sunday morning at 3 a.m. and there were more people milling about than during our downtown rush hour.
Same goes for Vancouver’s very busy Granville, Robson and Davie Streets. Montreal’s St. Catherine Street never seems to sleep.
Much of the conversation that evening revolved around whether or not the barriers should be taken down so that pedestrians can once again cross the street at the famous intersection which ex-Winnipeggers Randy Bachman and Neil Young immortalized in the song Prairie Town.
The Portage and Main corridor debate is a big issue as of late. After closing the street to pedestrian traffic in the ’70’s, city planners of late have been talking about taking down the barriers and putting in pedestrian crosswalks.
With the growth of the city and more car traffic, I personally think this is a bad idea.
Opening the street up to pedestrian walkways will only slow down the flow of vehicle traffic. It’s a pretty busy corner and traffic is pretty congested as it is. And besides who wants to be standing on that windy corner when it’s 50 below?
I proposed my solution to artist Vladimir Kraynyk who moved here from Russia. I suggested two walkway arches crisscrossing the intersection above traffic. Wouldn’t that be cool to stand above Portage and Main traffic.
Vladimir liked the idea and said, “I’m gonna add that to my painting,” and proceeded to paint one of the walkways onto his painting which stirred up memories of a dust bowl.
It’s interesting how artists can be inspired. I spoke with Gabrielle Funk, who told me she’s not used to making art in front of others, never mind on a busy street corner.
Her painting started out with rectangular buildings but when I checked on her progress a while later, there were circles rising in the sky. Looking up in the sky I noticed the almost full moon had risen.
Artist David Oro envisioned lots of cyclists in the streets. The traffic in Corijaye’s bright painting had a nice flow to it.
The public was also invited to write down their ideas on three panels (both sides) marked The Portage & Main Experience – Describe in words +/ or sketches.
From kid’s drawings of dinosaurs freely roaming the intersection (that’ll make drivers more cautious) to comments like ‘Gathering Place For Our Community’ and ‘A Portal to the Other Side,’ it was an interesting way to get the public engaged in the issue.
It was a fun evening. Bravo to the Winnipeg Design Festival and other events like First Fridays (on the 1st Friday of every month, art galleries and artist studios open their doors to the public) for getting people back into the downtown streets.
All photos by Doug Kretchmer