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Sports-themed mural for Civic Centre still on hold: NDAC executive director

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
June 29th, 2022

A sports-themed mural for the side of the Civic Centre isn’t an easy project to pull together, despite a long-standing desire in the community to realize it, says the Nelson and District Arts Council’s executive director.

Sydney Black said a sports-themed mural on the end of the Civic Centre — the section of wall facing Hall Street — has been put forth again by Bill McDonnell, and his wife Anne, an idea that has been put forward for the last few years.

Black said the idea had been talked about before the pandemic began when there was public art funding available through Columbia Basin Trust — the same funding stream that was accessed for the City Hall mural.

That municipal mural painted last year came in at $40,000, she said.

“It’s just a matter of funding and finding funding to make that (sports-themed mural) happen,” Black commented.

She was asked by Coun. Cal Renwick about the status of the sports-themed mural during a presentation on the annual Nelson International Mural Festival on Tuesday night.

Black said the Civic Centre was a very large wall and there are issues with the roof and with rain dripping down the face of it — with discussion around flashing and rain gutters needing to be in place before a mural could be proposed.

Those issues make it a more expensive project, and in the realm of a commission, and would not fall under the mantle of the International Mural Festival. The festival gives artists the creative control to create a mural, which also lessens the price tag for the endeavour.

“Mural funding is for artists to do what they want, to create what they want and it’s tied to those caveats,” Black said. “If people want to have a commission done on their private buildings we ask the artists to name their price for the commission.

“So that’s why we haven’t painted that wall, to date, because I am saving that wall and am trying to find cash so we can make that sports mural happen … but it’s an expensive wall.”

Renwick asked if the sports theme raised the price.

“So what you are telling me is that if the minute we say we would like a sports-themed mural, even though it would go through a panel of jurors and what have you, because we are saying it’s sports theme that takes the creativity away from the artist to a certain degree?” Renwick said.

“Yes,” replied Black.

“But we just saying that it is the theme that we want, we are not telling them what they have to paint?” Renwick asked.

“Yeah, we don’t put any parameters around what the artists are creating when we are hiring them, because we are not able to pay them those commission fees,” Black explained. “But once a demand is made, it changes what artists are willing to do and for how much money, and when they lose that creative control it is a huge aspect of their work, and we find that when you put those parameters on sometimes the quality can suffer as well because they are not doing what they are moved to do.”

“So what we have to do is find an artist who likes to do sports-themed murals,” Renwick stated.

Which is challenging to do, Black said, with 635 people applying for the festival this year and none of the artists with a sports-themed bent.

Coun. Rik Logtenberg wondered about a Go Fund Me fundraising effort for the mural.

Black thought the idea might over saturate the fundraising market in Nelson.

“But I think there will definitely be a time and a place where we make it happen, it just hasn’t arisen yet,” she said.

Mayor John Dooley suggested the city find out what that wall of the Civic needed in advance to prepare it for a mural because there were existing issues.

“I really want to thank Bill for keeping this in the forefront,” he began, “because it’s probably the biggest canvas we have left sitting in town there on the end of that building, really.

“However, these things have to be community driven, as well.”

He acknowledged that creative control would be a necessity in the mural project.

“But an artist could look at that building and, if we were to supply them with the history of that building, how it came about, what it was used for over time, I am sure they would be able to come up with something that would reflect the building, as a whole,” Dooley said.

Next in line

City council approved the use of the north-facing wall of the City Parkade (420 Vernon Street) for the mural proposed by the Nelson and District Arts Council and designed by artist Sneha Shrestha.

“She is a very talented and epic artists, and we are very lucky to have her,” Black said.

The request was part of this year’s annual Nelson International Mural Festival.

The project will be completed in August, 2022 and will take up to 14 days to complete, including surface preparation.

The design concept “reflects the aesthetics of my native letters,” wrote Shrestha. “Often I write mantras in my works that become repeating patterns on a vivid colour-scape. The vibrant colors I use are prevalent in Nepali festivals and festivals in Kathmandu means the coming together of family and community. I hope to bring this same magic to my uniquely shaped wall.

“I thought of calming colors and want to work with the idea of flowing water to bring a sense of calm.” 

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