Exterior rendering of KPLSW, with Isaac Murdoch & Nyle Johnston's Wintertime Stories visible through windows in the main program space.

A community wraps its arms around the natural features and creatures that sustain it. Blue human forms echo glacier peaks that reach for shimmering golden skies. Warm pink hearts beam from the shapes of beings with wings, claws, paws, hooves, leaves and blooms. We are all bound together by our shared environment and social fabric.

This is one way to look at Wintertime Stories, a new public artwork by visual artists Isaac Murdoch and Nyle Miigizi Johnston. In September 2023, Kitchener City Council endorsed the artist team’s proposal, which celebrates the relationships between generations and species.

“The stories of the woodland animals are rich with lessons and teachings on our connection to all of nature and our roles as stewards and protectors of the lands,” explained Johnston and Murdoch in their proposal. “In addition to being visually striking, the artwork will be embedded with important messages about history, culture and eco-consciousness.”

The full 53' span of Wintertime Stories as proposed by the artists.

The artwork will be installed in the main programming space of the new Kitchener Public Library’s Southwest Library, opening in 2025. Murdoch and Johnston’s concept was chosen by a jury of local citizens and artists for its distinct links to Anishinabek storytelling tradition, intersecting cultures and life in the northern woodlands.

Wintertime Stories was selected from more than 40 submissions to an open call for proposals that aimed to prioritize underrepresented artists from Indigenous or immigrant backgrounds. Jurors felt the idea’s stylized shapes and natural materials would fit the new library’s design, and that its warmth and playfulness would lend itself to interpretive content and activities.

The artwork is produced by the City’s one percent for public art policy, which allocates funds from civic construction projects with budgets above $100,000. The policy aims to make public spaces unique, memorable, and reflective of local identity by developing a public art collection.

Wintertime Stories represents an important acknowledgement of First Nations’ relationships to the land on which KPL Southwest will exist. It will also include Indigenous representation in the City’s public art collection for the first time.

Wintertime Stories as it will appear in KPLSW's main programming space.

The artwork will be created in 2024 and then installed on a 53-by-8-foot surface above the main gathering and welcoming area of the library, appearing to float slightly off the wall. The artwork’s pictography will be created using machine-cut shapes made with stained Baltic birch plywood and laser-cut acrylic produced from recycled plastics and UV-printed with custom colours.

The official unveiling of Wintertime Stories is set to coincide with the 2025 opening of the Southwest Library.

Learn more about the City’s public art program at www.kitchener.ca/PublicArt.

Images provided by Highness Global Inc. on behalf of Nyle Miigizi Johnston and Isaac Murdoch, adapted from renderings created by mcCallumSather architects 

Closer detailing of Murdoch and Johnston's Wintertime Stories from the artists' proposal.
Closer detailing of Murdoch and Johnston's Wintertime Stories from the artists' proposal.
Closer detailing of Murdoch and Johnston's Wintertime Stories from the artists' proposal.
Closer detailing of Murdoch and Johnston's Wintertime Stories from the artists' proposal.
Closer detailing of Murdoch and Johnston's Wintertime Stories from the artists' proposal.
Closer detailing of Murdoch and Johnston's Wintertime Stories from the artists' proposal.