Stephen Kirk, Environment and Open Spaces Coordinator
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The Spence Neighbourhood is the area between Portage and Notre Dame Avenues and Balmoral Street to Agnes Street. This 25 block area is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Winnipeg, and has a rich history to be shared. The area holds the stories of many of Winnipeg’s most famous people; athletes, artists, political leaders and activists. There are also locations where buildings that have played a significant part in Winnipeg’s History are located.
Spence Neighbourhood residents spent countless hours unearthing some of the unwritten history of this area. A committee of community residents had sorted though this information and chose the most significant landmarks in the community to be commemorated by plaques. All the sites with plaques as well as other landmarks were included in a printable walking tour brochure so that people could conduct self guided tours. It was also planned to develop historical guided tours of the area.
The Spence Neighborhood Association, University of Manitoba, and the Manitoba Eco-Network teamed up in 2008 to create a Green Map of the Spence Area. This project came out of the SNA 5-Year Green Plan by request from the community gardeners in the area.
To see full article: Free Press Article
The map is no longer active.
This project came out of the SNA 5-Year Green Plan by request from the community gardeners in the area.
As we worked on the project we realized that there were significant challenges to overcome. One huge hurdle was situating the greenhouse on one of our community garden lots and so we started to talk about moving the pilot to another site. We decided on a gravel lot that was donated to the Spence Neighbourhood Association for the purposes of greening on Maryland Street near Wellington.
In 2008 we began the process of cleaning the lot up by planning and strategizing with neighbours, and holding community events and workshops, and to raise the knowledge of gardening and greenhouses with residents of the community.
When faced with the complex problems of poverty, drug abuse, and other issues in the neighbourhood, some said that it could not be done at this site. But when the SNA polled the residents of the three big apartment blocks that ring the site in November and December of 2008, they told us that they supported a green space, they wanted to learn how to garden, and that they wanted positive change in the empty gravel parking lot next door to their home.
The intention for the early part of 2009 was to fence half the lot and to erect the small pilot greenhouse, along with securing hydro. We worked with the landlords to install motion lights, and researched the possibility of having water on site.
This project was not only about the greenhouse, but about exploring the potential of community building and development through community accessible green space and gardens. It was about building partnerships with organizations, such as IRCOM, who support newcomers to Winnipeg. We had hoped to see the development of a healing garden with an AIDS/HIV support group on site. And by hiring from the community, people like Millie Richard DaCosta, a registered Horticultural Therapist who could act as a connector and a healer using gardening and plants as tools.
In 2022, we finally completed the construction of our Community Greenhouse. For more information: Community Greenhouse
The Spence Community Compass was a community art project that involved Spence Neighbourhood residents in making a permanent art piece (2006-2007) and installed it in Furby Park in the summer of 2008. The project was part of the Winnipeg Arts Council’s community public art program, WITH ART. The Spence Neighbourhood Association was one of three communities chosen to be part of WITH ART in its first year. SNA subsequently selected visual artist Leah Decter to work with the Spence community to create a permanent public art piece.
The project was developed with ongoing input from the working group of interested community members and SNA staff to address goals and interests identified through community consultation.
With the idea of HOME as its main theme, the art piece celebrates the stories and histories of the neighbourhood and its residents through plants, words, and images. Bringing together past, present, and future it is intended to convey the cultural diversity of the community and aspects of its history, the unique contributions of Aboriginal/First Nations peoples, and concepts of growth and regeneration. Incorporating the history of the area, individual histories, and images made by community members, the piece tells inter-related stories about this community.
The artwork is located in Furby Park, just north of Ellice Ave, a site that was strongly supported during community consultation. It is situated mainly at ground level and is intended to be interactive and accessible. The piece takes the form of concentric circles with three major components; a planted grassy inner circle that reflects the pre-contact history of the area, a tile mosaic component made up of images derived from local children’s drawings about their community, and a text outer circle in the form of a compass that bears the names of the places outside this community that area residents call HOME.
To see photos and more information: The Spence Community Compass
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