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Artists wrap Helen Betty Osborne building

The star blanket mural in progess Aug. 16.

The Star Blanket Project honours those impacted by missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit peoples.

A photo of the unveiled building on Aug. 17.

A group of community artists in Winnipeg led by Kenneth Lavallee and Annie Beach have wrapped the Helen Betty Osborne building on the University of Winnipeg’s campus in a star blanket.

It’s a painted mural that is inspired by the geometric-designed star blanket that Indigenous people bestow as gifts that honors the recipient. The morning star blanket is intended to protect, empower, and give comfort and hope to those wearing it over their shoulders, reads a press statement, just as the wrapped building is meant to be a symbol of hope and inspiration to young Indigenous peoples.

The Helen Betty Osborne building houses the Wii Chii Waakanak Learning Centre and the University’s ACCESS education program, and other accessible academic and community-learning programs. The mural project is coordinated by artist Lavallee in conjunction with Synonym Art Consultation. It is the first creation in this year’s Wall-to-Wall mural and culture festival and was unveiled on Aug. 17.

The Star Blanket Project has sites across the city and honours those impacted by missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit peoples. The building is named for a young Indigenous woman who was sexually assaulted and murdered in 1971. She was only 19 and still in high school in The Pas. Betty aspired to be a teacher. It’s hoped that the mural advances conversation on this subject.

“The Helen Betty Osborne building is a place where the university and our neighbors come together to share, learn, and build brighter futures for young people in the community through impactful programs that honour Indigenous culture,” said Dr. Annette Trimbee, president and vice-chancellor at UWinnipeg. 

“Wii Chii Waakanak has always been a place where people come together — so it’s especially fitting that this beautiful artwork wrapping our building is being created in partnership with a group of talented artists and dedicated community members who want to beautify and celebrate our neighborhood while raising awareness,” said Jarita Greyeyes, director, community learning & engagement at the university.

The mural and culture festival sees the creation of multiple indoor and outdoor murals across the city. The festival culminates in late September with a block party that coincides with Nuit Blanche, bringing together diverse communities around art, music, and dance.

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