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'Tells a really awesome story': Ghost sign coming to life in Winnipeg

A project in Winnipeg’s Exchange District is shining a light on some faded parts of the city’s past.

Light artist Craig Winslow and urban archaeologist Matt Cohen are recreating old advertisements that were painted on buildings in the neighbourhood, bringing them back to life with lights.

“Winnipeg has one of the densest collections of ghost signs in North America,” Cohen said. “We have about 150 signs over 20 square blocks, and each one tells a really awesome story about the businesses and brands that located here about a century and a half ago in some cases."

Cohen said the first Ghost Sign Illumination Project took place in 2017. A permanent light installation was created last year at King Street and Bannatyne Avenue.

The ads are located at 165 McDermot Street. One is for household retailer Porter and Company, which built the building.

The other ad is for Milady Chocolates, a later occupant of the building.

“There's little details that we couldn't quite figure out, but we referenced archival imagery and old packaging for the Milady chocolates brand to try and inform what it is we're bringing to life," Winslow said.

Seven projectors are used to create the ads, which will be unveiled this Saturday during Nuit Blanche.

“I’m very excited for this one,” Winslow said. “It's huge. It's got great vantage points from many different locations. So I think this is going to be a really nice installation for Winnipeg, and hopefully, we can add some more on here.”

The project is expected to be in place until 2030.

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