Winnipeg’s Fort Garry showcases art


Wanda Koop Hotel For Garry (Actual Gallery Winnipeg)

Art by Wanda Koop hangs on the wall at Hotel Fort Garry (Actual Gallery Winnipeg)

Karen Burshtein Writer 

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA — The grand old lady of Winnipeg hotels, the Fort Garry, is now also a gallery exhibiting a bold collection of the work of top Manitoba contemporary artists.

The gallery, which began October 30 and will continue for for at least a year, features the works of twenty four artists including Wanda Koop, Bill Eakin, K.C Adams, Aganetha Dyck, and Peter Graham. You can find the art in public spaces and in unexpected, almost hidden nooks on several levels of the hotel. There are 55 works of art in all.  All are available for sale, and there is a  price list and details of each at the front desk.

The century-old railway hotel is a fixture in Winnipeg, one that has made a point of bridging past and present (its top floor ultra modern Ten Spa with authenticat Turkish hamam is one example). The hotel’s new art exhibit is an out of the box project of multi-media photographer and  curator Leala Hewak, who divides her time between Winnipeg and Toronto.

The idea came about after a smaller show put together by Z-ro, the art collective Hewak  is a member of (with Bill Eakin, Craig Love and Cliff Eyland)  in the hotel’s glamourous Palm Room, a favourite meeting place of theirs.  Co-owner of the hotel, Rick Bel,  bought Hewak’s idea of a longer running installation.

In deciding which works to pick from Winnipeg’s fertile art scene, Hewak says, “We went for elegance, not aggressive statements.  At the same time the work is contemporary, which means not just traditional landscapes and still lifes. However, it needed to be harmonious with the period surroundings, ” she says adding,  “Of course I had to avoid porn and swears.”

Hewak worked with fell Z-ro member and prominent Winnipeg-based photographic artist  Bill Eakins to hang the bold works in unexpected places in the hotel such as hidden loges and tucked away corridors on the mezzanine.  While discovering the  art you also discover some of these lesser known but architecturally striking parts of the old hotel.

There’s a colourful 6-foot Melanie Rocan piece high above an enormous stone hearth on the 7th floor.  “It took a very patient hotel staff and a skyjack to install it,” Hewak tells me as she and Eakin tour me around the installations. The idea of big art in a hotel, or art hotels, is an interesting and increasingly popular one. (While hip hotels like the Drake and Gladstone in Toronto have art curators, The Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver has a museum-like collection of local international artists in its public spaces. Conversely the Ottawa Art Gallery has just announced an expansion that will incorporate a new Alt hotel).

“It’s a chance to see art in a functioning space and not just the white walls of a gallery or museum,” Eakin says.

Hewak also thinks the “luxury of art art adds value to the guest experience.” She smiles as we pass a food trolly with plates, waiting to be set up in a banquet room, parked so close to a  colourful abstract by Takashi Iwasaki  that it’s almost touching it.  

This is really art in a living, breathing space.  Art should be created to live with and a hotel is a home away from home,” she says. On average, museum visitors look at any given artwork  for  17 seconds.  “At a hotel,” Hewaks says, “relaxing in the lobby,  having a drink in the lounge, a patron has the leisure to contemplate a piece.”

Hewak says they are getting  a lot of positive reaction to Eakins a circular view of the hotel’s Palm Lounge. Cliff Eyland’s print “Wagon Cart” is also a popular work, a  modern twist on a prairie artifact.  Peter Graham’s  surrealist-tinged “Rush Hour”, an image of a snow-bound streetcar surrounded by wild wolves, is a crowd-pleaser,  resonating with Winnipeggers who enjoy ironic nods at winter.

A standout  of the project is the Broadway Room, where breakfast and brunch are served and where five works of  the celebrated artist Wanda Koop are exhibited.  The Broadway Room is one  of most heavily trafficked public areas in the hotel and a space Koop chose personally for her works (the only artist who did). “Wanda is also a great believer in liveable art, and she boldly chose very clean-line, modern pieces for this ornate setting. Guests say it works wonderfully,” Hewak says.


Address: 222 Broadway Winnipeg, Manitoba
Phone: 1-204-942-8251


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