During my trip to Winnipeg a couple weeks ago, I ventured into the Exchange District, not knowing very much except that it was an area that had been designated a National Historic Site in Canada. So I expected a lot of old buildings that Jason described as “you’ll feel like you’re in Chicago“.
It did feel like at times that I was in Chicago. But I was surprised to find so many buildings featured amazing large-scale sign-painting. It’s an amazing collection that I have yet to see anywhere else, comparable to the Wynwood graffiti murals in Miami.
I don’t know much about sign painting, but I was so enthralled that I did a bit of research when I got back and learned more from reading this article on the historic murals in Winnipeg.
Before digital billboards, ads were painted directly to the bricks of the building’s exterior. Over time, many of the murals have been left to the elements, leaving behind faded “ghost signs”, often for products or companies that no longer exist.
As buildings changed owners, some murals were painted over or modified, like the Pepsi-Cola mural on Notre Dame Avenue and Albert St.
My trip reminded me of Sign Painters, co-directed by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon, which tells the story of how the craft of sign painting has faded away, but is now experiencing a renaissance in the United States. Having brought Faythe’s documentary Handmade Nation to Ottawa, Sign Painters is now on my list of must-sees so that I can find out more about process and how the craft has changed over the last century.