When you’re walking around Churchill, the Polar Bear Capital of the World, it’s hard to miss the beautiful murals painted on buildings throughout the town. The colors and messages are captivating, capturing the true essence of how it feels to live in this magical subarctic community.

The recently released documentary, Know I’m Here, paints the story SeaWalls Churchill and how their murals instilled hope and joy to the people of Churchill, Manitoba.

polar bear mural in Churchill

This mural of a sleeping polar bear was painted by Kal Barteski, who organized SeaWalls Churchill. © Courtney Nachlas.

Churchill, a small town located on the coast of Hudson Bay, is home to an overwhelming amount of wildlife and beauty, with the annual polar bear migration in the fall, northern lights illuminating the night skies during the winter, and beluga whales congregating in the summer. With all of the natural beauty this wild area has to offer, it’s no wonder families have inhabited this tiny subarctic town for generations.

The only way to access the remote town of Churchill is by train or by air. In 2017, many families were forced to leave Churchill after the seaport closed and the train tracks were destroyed by flooding, leaving many residents without access to supplies, jobs or affordable transportation. With blame passed around in a political struggle, the people of Churchill started to lose hope.

That’s when Kal Barteski, a Canadian artist, stepped in. Barteski brought 18 artists from all across the world to work on SeaWalls Churchill, a community art project to paint murals on various buildings and industrial spaces throughout the town. The “Know I’m Here” film follows Barteski as he develops this inspiring artistic showcase that still remains in Churchill today.

Churchill murals

Artwork by Arlin Graff from Brazil. © Eddy Savage.

The artists drew inspiration from the struggles facing the local community and the beauty of living in this subarctic town. The outdoor murals varied from sleeping polar bears to workers trying to balance themselves upon a broken railroad. For the people of Churchill, these murals were exactly what they needed to spark hope and bring the community together. In the  “Know I’m Here” documentary, you can see families dancing and listening to music in celebration when the murals were revealed.

Today, tourists from all over the world get to see the history and culture of this close-knit community preserved through the artwork from SeaWalls Churchill. Tourists who visit the community throughout the year can feel the emotion through the paintings.

Natural Habitat Adventures Graphic Designer Devin Law loved how the artists transformed otherwise industrial spaces into works of art. “It’s a huge piece of pride,” she said. “You can tell when you’re there that it’s something really special, and the people in the town love it.”

Churchill murals

Artwork by Charlie Johnston from Canada. © Eddy Savage. 

“Know I’m Here” is named after one of the murals by Georgia Hill from Australia. Her mural displays large black and white letters across a 400-foot-long building to send a message of the importance of this community that felt forgotten in a time of crisis. The film, created by Handcraft Creative, is available to watch on SeaWalls Churchill’s website.

Churchill mural of polar bear

The artists used industrial spaces and abandoned buildings to paint their work. This polar bear was painted by Li-Hill. © Eddy Savage.