The Background

Born in Alberta in 1927 to impoverished Ukrainian immigrants, William Kurelek ultimately became one of Canada’s most iconic artists until his untimely death in 1977.

The art of William Kurelek explored the harsh reality of Depression-era farm life, steeped in a dark and foreboding style fueled by Kurelek’s traumatic childhood and evolving debilitating mental illness. Kurelek’s paintings are highly coveted by collectors worldwide.

The Opportunity

Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) would be hosting the first large-scale exhibit of William Kurelek’s work in thirty years. Entitled The Messenger, the exhibition sought to bring together the artist’s most essential and engaging works. Once finished at WAG, the show would stop in Hamilton, Ontario, before finishing off in Victoria, BC.

The exhibition would include over 80 key paintings and drawings compiled from significant private, corporate, and public collections in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

WAG needed a robust interactive website that truly allowed virtual visitors to deeply and emotionally experience Kurelek’s work.

The Solution

The Relish Development Team believed that the website design needed to be highly visual to represent Kurelek’s artistic style and character. The client felt that visitors would continue to enjoy the website beyond the exhibit’s closing date, so the design and structure required a minimum of 5years’ shelf life.

Relish developed a bilingual, dynamic, interactive, modular, modern website with a content management system (CMS), which allowed visitors to expand significantly on the traditional museum experience.

Appreciating what would represent to the art world, the Relish development team worked to build a highly searchable, easily navigable masterpiece website, meeting web accessibility standards. featured 100 of Kurelek’s paintings within six thematic galleries. Each piece of artwork was scanned and parcelled into views at a very high resolution, allowing visitors to zoom into each painting and explore the most minute details. Each painting housed Points of Interest, which, when clicked, caused the screen to zoom in and pan across the artwork to the point, approximating the movement of a movie camera. Relish’s developers included a discussion section and social media links under each painting to encourage dialogue on the artist’s work to drive visitor engagement.

Besides the galleries sections featuring Kurelek’s artwork, Relish developed critical supporting areas of the website, including:

  • A detailed biography in the form of a visual timeline with internal and external links.
  • A video and audio gallery to view excerpts from the 1970 documentary film, The Maze: The Story of William Kurelek and to listen to interviews by Winnipeg author, historian, and educator Michael Ewanchuk.
  • A virtual tour of the artist’s bomb-shelter studio, compiled and edited from various video footage.
  • An educational section for schools entitled Look & Learn, which presented Kurelek’s less foreboding paintings.

On its go-live date, the website became a beautiful tribute to William Kurelek’s life and creativity, as well as a rich repository for his works that could be enjoyed by art-lovers worldwide.

Key Services Provided


  • Content Audits / Content Insight


  • UX Design
  • Interactive Planning and Articulation
  • Wordpress/Custom Theme Development
  • Interactive Gamification


  • Interactive Map Development


  • Training