For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council revisits previously featured visual artist Annie Bergen, who lives a few kilometers east of Whitemouth. She has been located there for around seven years but, prior to that, she lived in Winnipeg. Bergen is a painter, primarily focusing on large scale interior and exterior murals. She also likes opportunities to experiment with her murals, adding cut-outs or mosaic elements to enhance the pieces.
Two of her Winnipeg projects received Mural of the Year award – an MTS mural on Salter Avenue, and “Restoration” – which is a mixed media, community made mosaic/mural located at the Red Road Lodge. She said, “I love driving around Winnipeg, where I have several exterior murals, seeing my artwork in public spaces for everyone to enjoy.”
Bergen also enjoys making art that inspires and engages the public, and that visually enhances public spaces. In partnership with Whitemouth River Recreation Commission, she directed a project in Whitemouth called “Co-op Community Trail.” It features community-made paintings and mosaics, created with input from the locals, placed along a 1500 foot path. Funded by Community Spaces, Sunova and Manitoba Arts Council, the trail weaves throughout the grounds of the Whitemouth Community Centre. Bergen feels particularly proud of these eye-catching installations.
In her career with the Artists in Schools program, she has worked with about 10,000 students, creating more than 60 murals in schools throughout Manitoba. Recently, she visited Lac du Bonnet Senior School to created murals. She said, “I find the act of teaching and sharing my skills with others very satisfying. I love engaging students and the community to help with these massive school murals and public mosaics.”
When asked about her influences, Bergen cites the late Marcel Dubriel, a Winkler high school art teacher who lived in the Pembina Valley, as her greatest mentor. Also, a local artist named Neil Fehr provided inspiration and guidance. Not only that, he hired her to help in his art gallery-studio in Winkler. This gave Bergan opportunities to access studio space, spending time experimenting with media and developing her skills and interests.
She said, “Aside from those two mentors, I am a self-taught artist and have basically just persisted with my own art practice over the years – carving out a niche for myself as a mural painter and blending that with my interest in working with students.”