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Anonymous street artist Winnipeg Waldo turning city into digital scavenger hunt
WINNIPEG -- If you’ve walked along McDermot Avenue or strolled along Provencher Boulevard, you may have noticed a popular figure from your childhood popping up.
It’s the work of Winnipeg Waldo, a street artist who has been working for two years to plaster the striped, literary figure on unsuspecting corners of the city.
He does this while maintaining his anonymity.
"Having people know who I was didn't add anything to the project itself. It didn't make it better in any way. I preferred the idea of just having somebody walk to work the same route they took and just magically -- there's this piece of artwork there, of this little Waldo,” the artist said, while being interviewed in his garage, his makeshift studio brimming with poster boards, stencils and cans of spray paint.
He became inspired to start the project two years ago while on a trip to Australia. He came to admire the burgeoning street art scene, and loved seeing the work of the same artists popping up as he explored the country.
"When I got back to Winnipeg, I felt legitimately sad walking through the city. You don't see that kind of grassroots street art," he explained.
He decided he wanted to continue the trend here. To do it, he wanted to use a figure people knew and loved, one that inspired interactivity with the art. Waldo seemed like the perfect muse.
"Somebody's walking through the city and you see a Waldo pasted on a wall, and you immediately understand that there is somebody who is putting these somewhere and the idea is for you to find them."
He launched the project in July 2017. Without any formal art training, he started experimenting with different materials. First he used stickers, then branched out into wood and tile. He had to choose materials and adhesives that could withstand the sometimes punishing Winnipeg winters.
Creating a community of Waldo-watchers
The project also has a social media component that encourages an interactive scavenger hunt. The artist shares pictures of the Waldos to his Instagram account, inviting his followers to guess where they’re posted. Similarly, anyone who comes across the art in their travels is invited to share it online with the project’s hashtag, #WinnipegWaldo.
"I think the social media thing has helped it to become more of a game, but at the same time it has helped it to grow in its size,” Winnipeg Waldo explained. “People hear about it and people see these pictures, so then they start looking for them, and that's almost how the idea is spread."
To date, he’s made more than 800 Waldos with no plans to slow down. Over the years, he’s had to get creative, mashing the Waldo figure with other popular characters like the Queen, Walter White and Terminator.
"I get bored very easily so I was like, ‘Alright, what can I do with different colours? What can we do with different characters?’ And I think through that, I was able to practice skills and get better at these customizations and just kind of find ways to challenge myself."
Now two years into the project, the Winnipeg Waldo Instagram account has amassed thousands of followers. The artist hopes this will inspire others to join him.
"I would love to see more artwork like this in the city, just things that are created by the people that live here, instead of it being decided by the people from the city what we see when we're walking around or driving around,” he explained.
“I think it should be up to the people who live here to express themselves and to put their own creativity out there because it's their city. It doesn't belong to the people who run it.”