Winnipeg artist tries to make downtown lanes safer with wildlife-themed murals
A Winnipeg artist is embarking on a new project to spruce up downtown lanes.
Multidisciplinary artist Nereo Zorro, who has lived in Mexico for two years, recently returned to Winnipeg and began his project in the Langside Street alley.
“I really wanted to use this time that I’m here to push for beautifying public spaces. Specifically the alleyways, because I think that’s a space that isn’t always recognized or used,” he said. declared.
His plan is to paint 37 murals across Canada, specifically targeting street lanes to bring a sense of safety to neighborhoods. Zorro plans to feature wildlife in this series – saying he was inspired by fellow artist Kal Barteski and his series Back Alley Arctic.
“I wanted to showcase the wildlife in the world. I care a lot about our environment and the connection we have with nature,” he said.
Zorro’s first piece was a fox mural, on a garage across from the Furby Tot Lot. As he painted, he said he heard people screaming from afar and saw people rummaging through trash cans.
“It may seem [like] a tough neighborhood. I think that may be the case. It was a little hard to see.”
He said the owner felt a mural in the space would benefit the community by making it more family-oriented and safer for the family, and Zorro was on board. Especially since he had a personal connection with the region.
“I grew up on Furby Street in the early 90s. It was my first home, and revisiting that space was kind of nostalgic,” he said.
Indira Rampersad’s garage on Westminster Avenue was the location of Zorro’s next play, which features rabbits. She said the idea came from her son, Nathaniel. But she didn’t know that Zorro would paint rabbits that would represent her and her son.
“It was a real treat because it reminds me of my relationship with Nathaniel all the time,” Rampersad said.
It was also special for Zorro – he said that within minutes of making the first outline, he saw two bunnies in a position similar to those in the mural.
Rampersad, who has been a long-time Zorro fan, said she first learned about his project from a message he posted on social media. She contacted him and they discussed the play. They agreed on an artist’s fee, and he spent two days painting his garage. For Rampersad, that was not the issue. She really believes in her new project and wanted to support it in any way possible.
“My wish for him is that his work will spread all over the world,” she said.
Rampersad believes in bringing nature to a larger part of the city. She said it could be a way for people to reconnect with nature and each other.
“Maybe people will spend more time together and want to be outside together,” Rampersad said. this.”
Urban geography professor Jino Distasio said art in public spaces, like the Zorro Lane murals, sends the message that downtown Winnipeg has a rich history that needs to be lived.
“When artists give back to the community and in a way like this, it really means people care. They care about their communities and they care about how we view our city and not just our ways. front, but our back streets too,” Distasio said.
He said the perception that downtown Winnipeg is unsafe is something the city has struggled with for a long time. But he thinks Winnipeggers like himself, who spend most of their time downtown, find it a great place.
“Discover the history, the culture, the streets, the shops and all the different little experiences that make Winnipeg a truly unique cultural expression,” said Distasio.
Zorro said he believed art was healing and it was an important part of his project.
“It’s not the band-aid solution to everything. But I think the arts allow us to touch a deeper space within ourselves and learn more about who we are,” he said.
“I think art is a great vehicle for social change.”
Zorro plans to paint a mural in Hamilton, Calgary and various locations in British Columbia this summer.