Commemorating the strike

Arts, Culture & Heritage

Images courtesy of Noam Gonick.
Streetcar installation carries on the story of 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.

The tipped over streetcar is an iconic image that captured the boiling point of the 1919 General Strike. One hundred years later, a replica of that recognizable image is now a permanent part of the Winnipeg landscape.

Located at Pantages Plaza near the main site of the Strike activities, the installation is a nearly full-scale steel replica of the streetcar that was tipped over on Bloody Saturday. It illuminates at night, and a didactic plaque commemorates 100 years since the Strike by explaining the significance of the streetcar and the events of Bloody Saturday.

“I think it’s the most fascinating chapter in our City’s history,” says Noam Gonick, a filmmaker and artist who led the project. “I’m pretty sure it was the first time Winnipeg was on the cover of the New York Times. It was at the start of that brief moment when Winnipeg felt like it could possibly be at the center of a global moment.”

Whether you agree with the aims of the strike or not, you can’t argue that it was an important historical event and the kind of history that we should be proud of.

Noam Gonick
Project lead and Mentor

Gonick noted when the project was conceptualized five years ago, there was very little marking the site of the historic event, aside from a plaque which lacked visibility. He teamed up with sculptor Bernie Miller to change that.

“We felt that plaque was not doing justice to the history, whether you agree with the aims of the strike or not,” Gonick says. “You can’t argue that it was an important historical event and the kind of history that we should be proud of.”

The development of the installation was supported by The Foundation, the Government of Canada, Centre Venture, IATSE 856, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and unions in Manitoba.

“I want it to be a real beacon – something instantaneously recognizable,” Gonick says.

Gonick notes the significance of the 1919 Strike and the ripple effect it had on the lives of Canadians decades later.

“Even though it ended on a sour note for the strikers, many have attributed the subsequent gains by the labour movement to that outburst of activity and the devastating side effects of Bloody Saturday,” Gonick says.

“Wherever it’s at right now, we live in a society that enjoys the fruits of that movement.”

Recipient: Winnipeg Arts Council
Program: Major public artwork commemorating Winnipeg’s 1919 General Strike
Grant: $50,000 drawn from the hundreds of Community Funds held at The Winnipeg Foundation

This story is featured in the Summer 2019 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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