Explore the art and history of Gimli, Manitoba
Updated: Apr 9, 2021
4 COVID-safe art and culture spots you might not know about
Summer is around the corner, and if you’re a Manitoban, you might already be dreaming about heading to the beach at Gimli. The stunning sunsets and view of the harbour (not to mention, the enticing smell of fish and chips) make it hard to miss. But if you’re looking for something new, and safe, to do in Gimli this summer, you might be surprised to learn about its thriving art community and rich history.
We’ve rounded up a few unmissable cultural stops to add to your next trip to Gimli so you can really explore what makes this community one-of-a-kind. All of the organizations that are opening up this season are doing their part to keep all of their visitors and staff safe and minimize the spread of COVID-19 so you can feel confident about your next visit.
To start, let’s take a look at a popular walking spot that is truly one-of-a-kind.
4. The Gimli Art Club Sea Wall
One of the things that makes Gimli such a unique place to visit is its iconic sea wall and murals. With a harbour full of boats and never-ending horizon, it’s hard to imagine that you’re really inland in Manitoba. Visitors from around the world visit the sea wall gallery every year.
In 1997, the Gimli Art Club started to paint murals on the sea wall. These images show Gimli’s history, important events and what life looks like in the Interlake area. The Art Club’s artists and members work to create and maintain the murals, creating an outdoor art gallery that is open all year round.
As long as you’re at least two metres away from other sea wall visitors, you can safely enjoy this open-air destination. Pro tip: it’s even better if you stop by Ye Olde Ice Cream Parlor and get a “smushed” ice cream treat first.
If the sea wall makes you curious about the history of Gimli, you won’t want to miss the next stop on our list.
3. New Iceland Heritage Museum
Did you know that Gimli is home to the largest population of Icelanders, outside of Iceland? In 1875, living in Iceland became impossible for many families. A volcanic eruption destroyed acres of land and property, and a plague killed many of the sheep that provided wool and food for Icelanders.
The Canadian government offered Icelandic settlers a chunk of land right in the heart of Manitoba, which is sometimes referred to as New Iceland. Since then, Icelandic culture has thrived and adapted to life in Gimli, creating traditions that tie together the old and the new.
If that sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, you can’t miss the New Iceland Heritage Museum on your next trip to Gimli. The museum tells the history of New Iceland through permanent exhibits from its own collection of artifacts, and regularly installs local, regional, national and international temporary exhibits.
For example, this lamp helped light the night as the first Icelandic baby was born on Canadian soil in 1875. As the first group of travellers arrived at the shore of Gimli on a barge, one of the women went into labour. The others rushed to erect tents that were on loan from the Hudson’s Bay Company so that the mother and child would have some shelter from the weather. The descendants of that child still live in Gimli today.
The museum is currently open Monday to Saturday and will start operating 7 days a week in mid-May. Museum staff are limiting the number of visitors to 25%, sanitizing throughout the day and enforcing mask wearing so you can safely explore all of the exhibits they have to offer.
The museum is a great way to understand Gimli’s past, but the next spot on our list gives you a chance to understand art and culture in present-day Gimli.
2. The Gimli Art Club
If you’re not an artist yourself, you may not think “art” when you think about Gimli, but the entire Interlake area is home to hundreds of talented artists. Many of them are members at the Gimli Art Club, a combination gallery and workspace that features paintings, mixed media, sculpture, photography and more.
This beautiful little spot was once named a top 10 art gallery in Manitoba, and it’s no wonder why – on average, they see 10,000 visitors a year from all over the world. The artists and members run the gallery, so on any given day, you may get to meet the person who created the piece that you’re looking at. Not to mention, all of the art is for sale, so you may stumble upon the next great addition to your art collection.
For now, the gallery is open on weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with plans to extend hours starting on May 8. The artists are currently working on a collaborative piece of art to celebrate Manitoba 150: a massive plywood Manitoba cut-out with themed paintings.
The Gimli Art Club is limiting capacity and following all COVID-19 guidelines to ensure safe visits, so be sure to add them to your itinerary next time you’re in town. Find them on Facebook and Instagram.
If you’re ready to dive back into some Gimli history, then buckle your seat belt because our next spot involves a wild ride.
1. The Gimli Glider Exhibit
In Manitoba, we may think of Gimli as a hub for Icelandic culture and that beautiful sandy beach. However, you may be surprised to learn that around the world, Gimli is known as the famous site of an emergency plane landing that seemed to defy all odds.
In 1983, a passenger flight going from Montreal to Edmonton unexpectedly ran out of fuel and started to descend from 41,000 feet above Manitoba. Using manual calculations and the ingenuity of the flight crew, the pilots targeted Gimli to land the massive aircraft. They couldn’t have known that the runway they were aiming for no longer existed, but miraculously, the plane was able to land with no serious injuries.
This unbelievable story is chronicled at the Gimli Glider Exhibit, which goes into all of the astounding details. The story is the basis for several docudramas, articles and podcasts, continuing to fascinate people to this day. Luckily for Manitobans, it’s an easy journey to visit the museum and get the full experience of what that landing was like for the flight crew and passengers.
The Gimli Glider Museum plans to open over the long weekend in May with limited capacity and regular sanitizing throughout the day to ensure safety for all visitors.
Find them on Facebook.