U of M student helps revitalize North End neighbourhood

In the winter of 2010, Kale Bonham, an aboriginal student in the faculty of education at the University of Manitoba, started the process of redesigning the lamppost banners that hang along Selkirk Avenue.

It was started with the help a class she taught during the first year of her practicum at Children of the Earth High School. To both Bonham and the students she worked with, the tattered 21-year-old banners were a disservice to residents and did not reflect the vibrant community.

The students recognized the obvious difference between the banners on Selkirk Avenue and those that hung in other parts of the city. The passionate reaction she got from students encouraged her to continue with the project, Bonham said.

“They were pretty talkative that day,” Bonham said of the day she revealed the torn Selkirk Avenue banners to her students.

“That’s probably the most they’ve ever talked in one class. They were very passionate about it.”

For assistance with the project, Bonham approached city councillor Ross Eadie. Eadie, who is chair of the Selkirk Avenue Biz, has supported Bonham throughout the project, including her North End Community Renewal Corp. (NECRC) grant application.

Over the summer, Bonham continued to work on various banner designs with student artists outside the classroom through an after-school anti-gang program, Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO), while waiting for a response from her grant application.

“We thought of the themes, of what they wanted to say to the community and how they wanted to represent their community,” said Bonham.

The students were most enthusiastic about how they wanted the general community to see youth, she said. Creating a feeling of nostalgia on the banners was also important to the students, as well as a representation of the different cultures in the area.

As creative director of AYO, Bonham worked alongside AYO organizer Michael Champagne and youth engagement coordinator Jenna Wirch.

“[The students] were very excited at the opportunity to be able to create a visible change in the community that was going to contribute to actual renewal,” Champagne said about the youth who contributed to the banners.

“They felt like they were actually contributing in a tangible way for making change in our community.”

After the summer months, Bonham received notice that the NECRC would support the Selkirk Avenue banner renewal project with a $2,000 grant; the Selkirk Avenue Biz and the City of Winnipeg would offset the rest of the cost.
After receiving notice of the NECRC grant commitment, the Selkirk Avenue Biz began the process of selecting five different images created by youth to go on the banners with assistance from graphic designer Brian Griffith.

This support has allowed Bonham and her students to replace the banners on 65 lampposts along Selkirk Avenue.

The images chosen include a community and culture piece that is meant to unite and celebrate the diverse Selkirk Avenue area; a bell tower image that helps to define the neighborhood; a “youth have heart” image that represents how students want to be perceived by the community; and two street views of Selkirk Avenue as it is seen from Main Street and Arlington St..

“We want everyone [in the neighbourhood] to walk down the street and see something nice,” Bonham said.

“They deserve to have a community that looks good and to be proud of their community.”