People commuting through downtown Winnipeg may have noticed a change about the shuttered Hudson’s Bay building of late.
Boards along the storefront came down early Thursday morning, revealing Indigenous art stretching across multiple window panels along Portage Avenue.
The installation features replications of pieces from artists Glenn Gear and Peatr Thomas, which currently appear in the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Qaumajug, the largest Inuit art centre in the world.
Economic Development Winnipeg and the Hudson’s Bay Company collaborated with community partners on the initiative that honours Inuit art and culture as the city works toward revitalizing the downtown area, they said in a news release Thursday.
“We have all worked hard to find ways to better use the windows on such a significant landmark in Winnipeg,” president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg Dayna Spiring said Thursday.
“We reimagine how this iconic building will evolve and look ahead to welcoming back visitors to our city, we wanted to ensure this important downtown space reflected the culture of the city.”
The federal and provincial governments along with the City of Winnipeg helped fund the installation, including $10,000 from the mayor’s office.
Repurposing the historic HBC building lends itself to renewing a key area in the city, Major Brian Bowman said Thursday.
Thomas, a Manitoba Anishinaabe and Inninew artist, created the original commissioned mural inside the WAG’s Katita Café. The artwork that’s rooted in hope shows colourful scenes from Turtle Island.
“A new sunrise with the new moon. After a time of change and awakening. Turtle Island is new once again, built on truth in the sacred seven ancestor teachings. Ancient knowledge once lost, is taught to us again by Mother Earth in all that she offers,” Thomas said in a news release.
HBC closed the long-struggling department store in November 2020. The following month, Bowman launched an advisory committee that would help handle the building’s options going forward.
At the province’s budget presentation in April, Manitoba announced the creation of a $25-million trust fund to help preserve the historic six-floor building, which first opened to customers in 1926.
The art installation project also plans on revealing more artwork along the building’s western storefront on Memorial Boulevard.