Archive for the 'Editor’s Notes' Category
Thank you to all the attendees and keynote speakers for attending and participating in the conference. Here is a summary of what took place and suggestions what Thompson should do to become a global Wolf Centre of Excellence!
WOLF & CARNIVORE CONFERENCE 2012 REPORT
Thompson, Manitoba’s first international Wolf & Carnivore Conference was attended by 98 people from Canada, USA, Finland, Japan and Russia. A broad section of organizations and interest groups were present such as universities, wildlife organizations, wolf sanctuaries, government departments from Manitoba and Wisconsin, Manitoba Trappers Association, an American native confederation, Parks Canada, Manitoba Wildlife Federation, The Wildlife Society, Travel Manitoba, an ecotourist lodge, as well as local interested parties.
What was notable and appreciated by many was the calibre of keynote speakers from 3 countries – Dr. Nikita Ovsyanikov, Russian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Dave Mech, University of Minnesota, Dr. Paul Paquet and Dr. Marco Musiani from University of Calgary, and Dr. Alistair Bath from Memorial University, St John’s, Newfoundland.
Nikita Ovsyanikov explained the declining numbers of polar bears on Wrangle Island Nature Preserve in northern Siberia. He stated that much could be attributed to human interference, more so than simply climate change. Daryll Hedman also provided interesting information on polar bear movements and denning along the coast of Hudson Bay, as well as where wolves and polar bears interact. Both had studied polar bears for decades and had learned that these carnivores were not as voracious as many believed.
Marco Musiani presented examples of wolf management solutions in different parts of the world. Alistair Bath described sessions he facilitates in resolving the human dimension aspects of wolf management. Paul Paquet spoke of the challenges in Conservation Ethics, and how humans use animals to their benefit even when they want to protect them.
Dave Mech presented a keynote address on his personal 54 years of wolf research.
Over twenty presenters covered a gamut of topics that included wolf research projects in Finland, Ontario and Manitoba, Canada. Some interesting findings in northern Manitoba were described from work being undertaken by University of Manitoba researchers funded through Manitoba Hydro.
Several university students from Finland, Japan, and Manitoba presented their wolf research work on posters that were displayed during the course of the two day conference. An audience participation session was held to outline potential research projects in Northern Manitoba.
VARIETY OF PRESENTERS
Presenters from the International Wolf Center in Minnesota and Living with Wolves in Idaho outlined the scope and work of their organizations in the context of the complex and often, controversial, wolf issues in the USA.
One unique topic included a presentation by the Grade 6 students at École Riverside School in Thompson on their Wolves Without Borders educational program, whereby the students collaborated with a similar school in the USA and Mexico. The students presented their results and feelings on wolves and the project. It was well received by the audience. It was evident that these youth may take up a career path in biology or wildlife science.
Ron Spence, President of the Manitoba Trappers Association, spoke passionately on his Aboriginal roots and teachings, and what the spiritual aspect of being a member of the Wolf Clan meant. Bryan Lundie captivated the audience with some wolf stories and sounds.
Dr. Rick Baydack led an audience session on identifying wolf research projects in the unstudied regions of Manitoba. As former chair of The Wildlife Society, Manitoba Chapter, Baydack also articulated the role of TWS and the pending conference that they would host in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2015. This function will attract nearly 2000 wildlife and conservation-minded people from across the globe. Manitoba could showcase its natural wildlife including its charismatic species of polar bears and wolves.
Informative Skype video sessions were held with John Benson, a graduate student at Trent University doing wolf research in Ontario, and Jess Edberg from the International Wolf Center in Minnesota.
TOPICS & PRESENTATIONS COVERED:
Local and global wolf research
Potential wolf research projects
Carnivores and climate change
Human Dimensions of wildlife management
Government policies on wildlife management
Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and Perspective
UCN as a Wolf Centre of Excellence
Public acceptance and mismanagement issues
Creating a wolf economy in Thompson
One session facilitated by Alistair Bath focused on identifying obstacles and solutions in University College of the North becoming a recognized Wolf Centre of Excellence. Christa Dubesky, a UCN instructor, spoke on the progress towards such a Centre of Excellence. A representative of Spirit Way Inc. presented a case for Manitoba developing a “wolf economy” based on research, education, conservation, science, ecotourism, and wolf events. A representative of the government of Manitoba described the status of wolves in the province and some of the measures they were using to reduce wolf numbers that might be contributing to a decline in the moose population.
During the highlight banquet attended by over 150 conference attendees and community leaders, Spirit Way Inc. thanked the keynotes and read a prepared media release to proclaim Thompson as a Wolf Centre of Excellence and to set a goal to become the Wolf Capital of the World by 2015. This would coordinate with the new University College of the North campus opening in 2014 in Thompson, the first phase of a world class captive wolf enclosure and study area being completed in the new Boreal Discovery Centre in Thompson, and the large Wildlife Society conference in Winnipeg in 2015.
Overall, conference organizers received many compliments for the breadth and scope of topics covered, the quality of the keynote speakers, and the precision of the timing and delivery of presenters. One attendee commented that this was the best conference she had ever attended (see addendum). The venue lent itself to meeting and discussing topics with anyone on a one to one basis. One visitor mentioned he could sense the buzz in the room when he walked in and everyone was focused on the sessions until the very end.
Event organizers felt it was remarkable that so many topics could be covered about one animal species. This highlights how interesting and unique wolves are in the natural environment, and how one event would draw people from around the world to a small wilderness city in northern Manitoba.
During the conference a snowfall occurred which posed problems with flights and highway travel. No one seemed overly concerned about getting home. One individual from Florida missed the first day of the conference due to passport issues. Yet, she was very excited to attend and, after a quick tour of Thompson’s public wolf art, was thankful that she came.
The conference manager thanked the sponsors for their financial support which allowed them to reduce the registration fee for the conference by 60%. Over a dozen local organizations and various individuals in Thompson were responsible to deliver a first class event. In conclusion, numerous ideas, suggestions, and offers to partner with Thompson were received. These will be reviewed in order to keep the interest and momentum going.
RECOGNITION OF CONFERENCE SPONSORS:
Platinum Sponsors -
Province of Manitoba/Conservation SDIF, University College of the North, Manitoba Hydro, Thompson Unlimited, Vale, Travel Manitoba,
Gold Sponsors – Travel Manitoba, Calm Air
Silver Sponsors – Burntwood Hotel, Mystery Lake Hotel, Lakeview Inn & Suites, Tourism Secretariat
Bronze Sponsors – Best Western, CIBC, Greyhound Bus
Advertising for the conference was purchased in various publications, plus Facebook, posters, and emails. A great amount of positive media editorial content was received in these publications:
Winnipeg Free Press – June 8 & November 6, 2012
First Nations Voice – September 2012
La Liberté (St. Boniface) – September 19, 2012
Thompson Citizen – October 31, 2012
Wolves (Haliburton Forest) – Summer, 2012
MBiz (Manitoba Chamber of Commerce) – June, 2012
Wildlife Professional – Fall 2012
The Telegram (St. John’s) – December 17, 2012
Stories and interviews also aired on CBC Winnipeg radio, CBC Winnipeg TV, NCI FM.
SUGGESTIONS TO CONTINUE THE WOLF CAPITAL AND CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE INITIATIVES:
• Thompson should host a visioning and strategic planning session with various partners in 2013 to continue the process to become the Wolf Capital of the World.
• Identify further wolf research projects in Northern Manitoba
• Raise funds to place radio collars on wolves for youth educational research
• Partner with International Wolf Center, Minnesota
• Partner with Confederated Colville Tribes, Washington state
• Promote at International Wolf Center’s conference in 2013
• Promote Thompson at annual The Wildlife Society conference in 2013 and 2014
• Create an online “one stop shop” and portal for all wolf related initiatives in research, conservation, policy, tourism, education, events, art, Aboriginal perspective, etc.
• Marjorie Huculak, Parks Canada outlined promotion and marketing initiatives to grow the
Wolf Centre of Excellence.
• Declare Thompson as Wolf Capital of the World by October, 2015 in time for the large international Wildlife Society Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
• Host a series of articles in the Thompson newspaper to inform and educate the Thompson public on the ecological and economic value of wolves in northern Manitoba -
Polar bears and climate change
Current research – from Manitoba to Finland
UCN as a Wolf Center of Excellence
Human Dimensions of Wolf Management
Global wolf research by Dave Mech
Policy and politics
Social mismanagement of wolves
CONFERENCE OUTCOMES & BENEFITS
• Thompson is tapping into a new industry sub-sector – the wildlife and conservation community.
• Interest is being generated from an international audience.
• The conference awareness and interest was very positive and advantageous for Thompson.
• The wildlife and conservation subject helps takes focus away from negative media coverage.
• Wolves have a media appeal that is attracting unsolicited coverage in print and social media.
• Partnership arrangements are being offered and explored that can have economic and PR benefits.
• Manitoba can become a world leader in wolf management.
• Conference generated attention for UCN for research and recruitment opportunities.
• Linking this Conference to The Wildlife Society conference in Winnipeg in October 2015 will keep the topic and initiatives in the forefront for the next 3 years.
SUGGESTIONS & CONSIDERATIONS TO PURSUE WOLF CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE:
1. Get solid human dimensions data on resident attitudes, beliefs and attitudes toward management options and towards Thompson being a Wolf Capital and Centre of Excellence.
2. Human dimensions research and applied work regarding wolf management in Manitoba. First Nation views about wolves? Do attitudes and values vary across the North toward wolves? Do attitudes differ between the south and the north?
3. I would be very interested in doing some of this human dimensions research and getting a graduate student involved in such work.
1. Assess status of local wolf population, including approximate number harvested each year.
2. Establish a live-wolf exhibit in a natural enclosure as part of the new nature display.
3. Hire a full-time person to coordinate your effort.
4. Promote a science or zoology position at your new university.
1. A strong aboriginal component in your Centre both in the staff and the educational/interactive aspects would be a powerful attractant.
2. Tourists sign up for wolf tours and often don’t see them. They more easily hear them when efforts are made to howl them up. These tours are rich in information. Guides bring along wildlife biologists or game wardens for information, they bring pelts and paw molds and mock skulls for the tactile, hands-on experience and interactive learning. Tours can be rich in information while traveling through habitat, explaining how wolves interact with or affect their habitat and prey species. All this can be done on a rewarding wolf tour without seeing wolves.
1. Develop a Strategic Business Plan for developing Thompson as the wolf centre of excellence with clearly specified objectives and achievable deadlines.
2. Consider a ‘retreat’ where a cadre of interested biologists from government, academia, ngo’s, the Thompson community, First Nations, etc. are brought together over 2 or 3 days to help create the Plan.
3. Bring in a professional facilitator (Denis DePape or Sheldon MacLeod offer this type of service from Winnipeg or the Organization of Wildlife Planners [http://www.owpweb.org/] can provide this service from the US) to help achieve the proper flow and sequencing of the Plan and avoid costly roadblocks. Alistair Bath started us in the right direction, and could perhaps also be an appropriate facilitator.
“I just wanted to let you know that you put on a wonderful conference. Out of all the conferences I had the opportunities to go to, this was by far the best one. Not only was the content phenomenal, but it was small enough that folks could network with each other in a comfortable setting. I just wanted to congratulate you and the other organizers for putting this on. Keep up the good work!”
“Hearty congratulations on a wonderful conference. There is lots of work yet to do… but what you have accomplished in Thompson regarding Wolf & Carnivore initiatives is very impressive… and those in attendance were excited, interested and surprised at the enthusiasm showed as you work toward creating a wolf centre for excellence in Thompson. Well done… I am so glad I attended.”
“I just wanted to say that I am enjoying Thompson and what is transpiring here, GREAT WORK!!!!”
“Please extend my thanks and gratitude to all those responsible for the Thompson wolf conference. I was honoured to be invited and to participate in this wonderful event.”
“We REALLY enjoyed our entire trip to Churchill, Thompson and the conference. You should be so happy with the results of your obvious broad and intensive efforts….you planted many seeds and spread many focused considerations for not only your city but for our fellow great carnivores as well. We hope to continue our contacts with you in the future and see great things down the road.”
“I cannot tell you how impressed I was with the conference. You did such an awesome job of pulling this together!!”
“Thank you again for organizing such a wonderful, unique conference!!
Even though Thompson is surrounded by dense boreal forest and wolves can be very elusive, we are getting more wolf sightings from the public. Recently the same wolf has shown up around and in town. You can see several photos of him/her on the Wolf Sightings web page. It’s obvious this one is get used to people which is not a good thing. It’s a small wolf and needs to find easy prey. Sooner or later habituated wolves will present a problem or cause someone to complain or feel threatened. That usually ends up with a call to Manitoba Conservation to remove or destroy the wolf.
Currently, most Thompson residents hold a neutral view of wolves as they create little or no conflict situations often found elsewhere around the world. Sometimes moose hunters don’t like them as both are competing for the same food.
Most of the wolf sightings around Thompson are of single wolves. Packs are rare in this vicinity. This could be because there have been no forest fires close to Thompson in over 40 years. Which results in dense, old growth forest. Moose tend to feed in more open areas with new growth. A single wolf will never be able to take down a large moose, but will feed on smaller prey such as beaver or rabbits.
Packs of wolves are seen around Leaf Rapids, north of Thompson, which has had more than its share of forest fires. Last year a local resident witnessed a pack of 14 wolves crossing Highway 6 about 120 miles south of Thompson, another area of many fire burns. A pack of 14 wolves will require a lot of food!
The Wolf Sightings page has a wonderful video clip of 8 wolf pups along a river’s edge and several of them are swimming. This video was taken about 20 miles from Thompson.
All in all, the sightings in our region are a small glimpse into the elusive and fascinating world of wolves.
As the Wolf & Carnivore Conference draws near, we would ask those who are registered to express which theme interests them and what they would like to hear and learn from the speakers and participants. This will help us tailor the agenda to suit the needs of most, if not all.
Our keynote speakers and presenters have a tremendous knowledge and experience in wolf issues from around the world. As everyone knows, wolves and controversy seem to go together in most jurisdictions where cities, people, ranchers and farmers are found. Yet, this makes northern Manitoba unique. Wolf controversy has never been much of an issue in this boreal forest wilderness region of some 82,000 people in an area the size of France. What can the province of Manitoba learn from other areas, and can Manitoba establish sustainable wolf management policies and programs that become an example to the world?
One theme will cover WOLF MANAGEMENT topics. What works and hasn’t worked elsewhere? Can consensus be achieved with conflicting interests? How should government determine the right policies? Can the Aboriginal peoples, who have lived with wolves for thousands of years, provide their traditional knowledge as a guideline? What are the key socio-political factors in determining wolf management policies to build trust in various interest groups? We expect some healthy discussion on this topic.
What WOLF RESEARCH should be undertaken in northern Manitoba that would be a priority before proposed all-weather roads, hydro dams, electrical transmission lines, and more mining projects are developed? What are the best research opportunities for researchers and graduate student projects? Some results will be presented on some of the first wolf research ever undertaken in northern Manitoba. The findings will be of interest to all participants. What other current wolf research is underway in North America? We hope to have some reports by others.
We will have several presentations on POLAR BEARS in Churchill and Russia by a researcher and wildlife manager. How do these species interact with wolves? What research is needed to ensure the protection of polar bears in a world of global warming and climate change? A proposed wolves and polar bear research project has been identified along the coast of Hudson Bay. Finding a scientific leader and research students is necessary for this project to be launched. It could become a project of high media interest due to the iconic species involved and the impact of climate change.
Currently the Province of Manitoba is building a state-of-the-art new campus for University College of the North in Thompson. Surrounded by wilderness, UCN aims to become an international WOLF CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE. What does that mean? What programs, facilities, researchers, instructors and partnerships would UCN need to lead the way in wolf science and research? How can this institute attract researchers, students, and even eco-tourists learn about more about the wolves in the unstudied region of northern Manitoba?
If you have questions about anything above, please contact us at email@example.com.
If you are a student with a research project, poster or paper, please contact Kathryn McNaughton of UCN at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your participation will be able to influence future wolf studies, policies and issues in this part of the world. We look forward to your attendance in this exciting function!
May 24, 2012
Spirit Way Inc. continues to work and collaborate with community partners and others on improving Spirit Way in Thompson and on working on many exciting wolf initiatives. Here is a summary…
Last year, our committee came across this center in Ely, Minnesota, when doing research on wolves. Their website, www.wolf.org, is packed full of information. I initially contacted Dr. David Meech for wolf advice on how to improve the wolf enclosure at the Thompson Zoo. He referred me to Lori Schmidt, Curator, who was very cooperative in her knowledge of how to manage captive wolves. Their educational programs are comprehensive, and their knowledge base on wolves is significant. Their web cams display a gorgeous, panaromic view of their facility.
The opportunity came up two weeks ago to head south and my wife and I drove 900 miles to visit Ely, Minnesota to see the IWC. It was a great trip and a wonderful visit. Northern Minnesota is much like Northern Manitoba except more towns and more people. Ely is about an hour off the highway so you have to have a reason to go there. For a town of 3000 people it is beautifully tucked in the midst of forest, lakes and rivers. At the edge of Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, an outdoors person’s paradise… http://www.ely.org/things_to_do/museums.php
Although they hadn’t opened fully for the summer season, Lori Schmidt graciously took some time off her work as an instructor at Vermilion College to give us a back scenes tour. I was impressed… with the architectural design of the center, its location, the entrance, their displays and the wolf enclosure. Large windows give one a face to face view of their 6 captive wolves. Their habitat is very well designed and extremely “natural” looking, not some type of “canned” enclosure, as smaller animal centers can be.
The wolves showed their friendly side when they recognized Lori, yet they showed their pack behaviour when a non-regular procedure ocurred for our benefit. You could see the wild side! Wolf behaviour is in constant research around the world because of the animal’s intelligence, pack behaviour and interaction, and the human/wolf conflicts that do occur.
We next travelled to Minneapolis to meet with Mary Ortiz, Executive Director, IWC. Again, Mary was very courteous and cooperative to answer many questions as to how we could enhance our wolf enclosure in Thompson and develop wolf research, education, tourism and conferences. Our goal is to develop Thompson as the Wolf Capital of Canada. Manitoba has few regulations on wolves in captivity, because they are not endangered in our province. Manitoba has some 6000 wolves.
Thompson has all the raw sustainable resources to develop a “wolf industry”…. captive wolves, wild wolf packs, aboriginal traditional knowledge, amazing public wolf art, and a neutral stance on wolves and humans. Add this to our links to Churchill, Polar Bear Capital of the World, and we are confident we can develop new attractions and programs about wolves.
I look forward to continuing our new relationship with the IWC in the future and hope we can help promote their center and the wolf ”cause”. Stay tuned to many ideas and developments in the works.
In the Spirit!
Summer’s coming in the North, and Spirit Way Inc is gearing up for a lot of activity. Thompson just held the annual CHTM Trade Show and it had an excellent turn out. On Friday and Saturday one could barely move in the exhibition space because of all the people. The Spirit Way booth was well attended. Jan Hall donated a wonderful wolf quilt to raise money for the new wolf enclosure at the Thompson Zoo. We sold over 500 tickets in 3 days! One new contractor in town said he was very impressed by the wolf mural and wanted to send all the info to his relatives in Quebec. We handed out a lot of information sheets about Spirit Way and encouraged people to look at this new website.
We are starting to get people submitting their Wolf Sightings on our website. That’s great and we hope you spread the word. The sightings are important evidence for comprehensive scientific wolf research that could start in 2010.
A Spirit Way ad hoc committee is working with the Thompson Zoo to enlarge and enhance the wolf enclosure. The existing cage was built by Rotary Club over 25 years ago, and needs to be renovated. The intention is to go from a cage to a wonderful wolf habitat. It would be a better experience for the animals and the visitors. Doug Ross, former Executive Director of the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be contracted as a consultant to redesign the enclosure and develop a Wolf Management Plan for the zoo keepers. The project will cost around $190,000. It will become a tremendous asset for the Zoo.
Friends of Spirit Way will be launched in May, 2009. This will be a casual group of volunteers who are willing to join a fun group of people who are proud of their community and want to help protect and maintain the public features and attractions of Spirit Way. We’ll meet twice a year. Friends can choose what they want to help with and how much time they can spend. We hope you will consider joining. Go to the Home Page and click on the Friends button. You will receive a very special lapel pin and certificate. Orientation session will be held later this month.
A clean up day will also be scheduled for later this month. Give us a hand when you hear it announced on the radio or shown on the Home Page.
See ya all in two weeks!
In the Spirit!
In order to understand the future, it is helpful to know the past to appreciate how we got where we are today. Who would have known that what started as an idea to rekindle some community pride at a Chamber of Commerce meeting would rejuvenate our community in a major way? Along the route were a few key turning points that made the difference whether to proceed or not…
In August, 2003, Randy Sawatzky, manager of Thompson Renewal Corporation, offered to fund 50% of a proposal to develop a walking trail from the Museum. Along the way were ideas for 9 Points of Interest which started from creating Canada’s largest mural. After a presentation by Randy Sawatzky and I failed to secure the other 50% from City Council in October, the Chamber of Commerce under President Bob Wall approved the balance of funds to contract Design North to prepare a Master Plan. Without that simple decision, there would not have been a Spirit Way!
During that process, a number of individuals were interviewed for input. Anita Campbell supported my suggestion of highlighting Aboriginal art and culture which needed a more visible presence in Thompson. MLA Steve Ashton felt “this could be Thompson’s Golden Boy project”, as we overlooked a 10 story blank wall of Highland Tower 1/2 mile away from his office window. On our committee’s walking tour, Diane Shefford pointed out some unique bedrock that became the Nickel Belt Story point of interest. Dave Moore pointed out a “sweet spot” for a viewpoint of the potential Highland mural. Shaun Harman casually suggested there should be a tribute to Lambair and pilots. Well, four years of work by volunteers later and over $200,000 in donations resulted in the awesome, restored Norseman floatplane and Thompson Lions Club Park thanks to Fred Palmer, Marion Morberg, Nick DiVirgilio and the many, many volunteers. What started out as 9 became 18 points of interest when the Master Plan was finished.
In May, 2004 after a presentation to City Council to approve the Master Plan, only four people showed up at a public meeting – Alain Huberdeau, Tamy Burton, Dave Moore, and myself – and formed Spirit Way Inc. (SWI). Other community members were invited and over 3 years a working committee of 12 people, under President Alain Huberdeau, met WEEKLY to plan, manage, fund raise, and facilitate all aspects of the project. That in itself was an accomplishment!
Yet in hindsight, what a naive thing to do… undertake 18, repeat – eighteen, projects at the same time? Someone said two or three would have been enough for any community. Another naiveté was thinking that everyone would share the same vision, or that everyone would support what was good for Thompson. But invariably there are other agendas. Progress began slowly.
At a surprise announcement in February, 2005 Scott MacDonald, President of Inco, presented Spirit Way Inc. a cheque for $30,000 at a Chamber of Commerce meeting for the Rockface project. Now, that was an endorsement! In June, the first Gala fundraiser occurred at the Thompson Inn. It sold out 30 days in advance and was a huge success. $22,000 net was raised in one evening! Thompson had been in a malaise for a few years and was looking for something to take pride in.
Grant proposals were written. Presentations made. Funds solicited. Some were awarded. Others rejected. The Rotary Club of Thompson became the first partner to undertake a bold move and developed the Great Kid’s Slide, now renamed the “Otto Bindle Slide” as a tribute to one of their original members and a pioneer of Thompson. The Slide was controversial. Some did not want it to proceed. But President Tom O’Brien and Rotary proceeded. Today, it’s a fun place for local kids in winter, and a beautiful scene to watch with the huge wolf standing guard!
After biding our time for 18 months, SWI sent a contingent of Thompson supporters, Marion Morberg, Dan McSweeney, Judy Kolada, and myself to Winnipeg in May, 2006, using donated Calm Air passes, to meet with Bob Brennan, CEO of Manitoba Hydro. We offered Hydro a PR opportunity to sponsor a mural of a Robert Bateman painting, which he had never allowed before. It would be a first. As McSweeny said, “In the future, the economic wealth of Northern Manitoba will come from northern hydro power”. Then why not have a Hydro mural in the North as they have in Winnipeg? Three weeks later, his office phoned to say Mr. Brennan had been impressed and Manitoba Hydro would donate $125,000! What a huge endorsement and another major turning point. Spirit Way was being recognized from afar by an outside source. At the Gala presentation in June, 2006, Ed Danyluk, local Customer Service Manager, received a standing ovation from the audience. Not something you receive at work everyday!
Of course, finding the right muralist was a challenge. Seven proposals were received from across North America. The lowest offer came from Seattle, Washington, but the committee felt choosing a Winnipeg artist would be preferable as the sponsor was now Manitoba Hydro. One company’s rep drove 9 hours to Thompson and then back to make a half hour presentation. Why? To paint the first Robert Bateman mural in the world would have been a feather in any portfolio.
Charlie Johnston’s name came up as a casual reference from Steve Wilson, Graffiti Gallery of Winnipeg as Winnipeg’s award winning muralist. He was chosen and Charlie created a masterpiece in its own right. Read his BIO on… http://www.thompsonspiritway.ca/take-the-walk/points-of-interest/wolf-mural/about-the-artist/ to understand Charlie.
And read the fascinating story how Charlie got started on the wolf mural…
There was some criticism that a local artist had not been chosen. Painting murals one story high is one thing. Painting them 10 stories high plus reproducing a Bateman painting exactly takes it to a whole another level of artistic skill. Johnston had been painting murals for 23 years. He was a master and his world class mural proved it. His work set the bar to continue all Spirit Way projects with very high expectations.
And why a wolf mural? That was a fluke. After approaching Robert Bateman with a request to allow us to use his art as the subject matter, I looked at 100s of Bateman paintings. I superimposed four of his animal paintings onto a photograph of Highland Towers – a lynx, eagle, moose, wolf. Then we discussed it. Bateman stated the wolf was his preference. It was the best choice for Thompson for two reasons… From downtown or across the river a mile away, one can only see the top half of the Highland Tower wall. The appeal of the painting comes from the wolf’s stare. Its face is in the top half of the painting and no background scenery, trees, mountains competes with that. And Bateman had painted the wolf in 1990 as a predator looking at the viewer “eye to eye with respect”. Perfect! What a tremendous message to preach to our community. If all our actions were undertaken with respect, the world would be a much better place. Today the Highland Tower wolf mural has become a landmark for Thompson. It was recently published in Greece in a 300 page reference book of world murals and the only one in the book that is a full page in size. That says something!
From the mural Spirit Way progressed. Four awards to date. Numerous magazine articles written in Canada. A CTV half hour show on Spirit Way. Unprecedented positive publicity that continues.
There are so many people to thank that helped us get to this point, it’s almost impossible… the Spirit Way Board. Tim Johnston and Judy Kolada have been supporters since Day One. Wayne Hall has been indispensable as construction supervisor extraordinaire. Marion Morberg and Fred Palmer devoted 3 years to restoring the Norseman. Tom O’Brien and Rotary. Geoff Lamontagne at the Galas. Calm Air and Burntwood Hotel were key. Recently Dave Jensen, Al Meston, Pierce Roberts and Rhonda McDonald and all the firefighters. And the list goes on and on.
As we now move forward, the next stage is to protect and promote. Spirit Way belongs to the community. People will soon forgot who was on the committee when it all started. Spirit Way is a public asset that requires upkeep and maintenance. Let it deteriorate, and Thompson’s reputation will be blemished. Everyone should promote it to the hilt. It’s a positive asset with tourism and economic potential. It’s a public relations beacon. It’s a recruiting tool. It’s a cultural and heritage storybook. It takes a 2+ hour walk to experience and understand it all. It proves why Thompson is a great community in which to live, work, and play. Enjoy it all! Ekosi.
PS. Spirit Way Inc. is now looking for 25+ key Thompsonites to become official FRIENDS OF SPIRIT WAY. The invitation is to YOU. What kind of person are you – do you watch things happen or do you want to make things happen? See the website herein for details. We want to make things happen, and prove why Thompson is a great place. Join us as a FRIEND!
April 8, 2009
The launch of our new interactive website starts the next era in the Spirit Way initiative. Over the past five years a tremendous amount has been accomplished from a great core of volunteers who have raised over $1.4 million. We are not finished. Enhancements are still underway. This Blog will be a way to keep people informed as to our progress and our next goal. If you have thoughts or comments on Spirit Way in Thompson, simply contact us. There are some exciting things in the works that we will share with you as time goes on. We will update our Blog at least every two weeks, so please come back often.
Manitoba Tourism Award – Product Development 2008
More information coming
Prairie Design Award for Spirit Way
Manitoba Tourism Award – Partnership 2007
More information coming
Spirit of the Earth Award – 2007
Sponsored by Manitoba Hydro