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Colourful mural to enliven the grey exterior of City Hall this summer

The city has approved not only the use of the exterior of City Hall for a mural but it will be providing funding of up to 20 per cent ($7,500) for the mural project — Photo: City of Nelson

The grey concrete façade of City Hall could finally lend itself to a splash of colour this summer as the city’s international mural festival has received approval to use the municipal canvas.

The city has approved not only the use of the exterior of the building — the vertical stretch near the front doors of the government building — but will be providing funding of up to 20 per cent ($7,500) for the mural project.

The Nelson and District Arts Council (NDAC) hosts the Nelson International Mural Festival — which saw its first showing last year — and proposed the creation of a mural on the front of City Hall “in order to enliven the grey structure,” said Sydney Black, NDAC executive director, in her presentation to council.

“Our community is a thriving cultural hub for the region and currently our City Hall is not indicative of that, however it does provide an incredible palette for large scale art,” she wrote in a letter to council.

She noted that NDAC will be applying for 80 per cent of the funding for the mural project — around $30,000 — through the Columbia Basin Trust’s Public Art Fund. The city’s portion of the project would go toward the installation of the piece.

As well, maintenance of the mural would be the responsibility of the arts council.

The project proposal was well received by council, since murals in the city have had a positive history. The “mural projects throughout the city have successfully eliminated graffiti from a location that was previously significantly impacted by graffiti,” noted a city staff report from Sarah Winston, city corporate officer.

In addition, a mural on the City Hall building is in alignment with the city’s Art in Public Places Policy and would follow the requirements of council’s Murals, Development Permit Guidelines Policy, she noted.

Coun. Rik Logtenberg thought the mural could dovetail nicely with a “Path to 2040” theme, a sustainability strategy that defines what is great about Nelson. He initially made an amendment to the motion for the proposal to have the theme added as a stipulation.

“An artist’s representation of the Path to 2040 would be dramatic, it would be something we would see every time we came into the building ... we would always have that reminder of what it is we are trying to achieve as a community,” he said.

The amendment met resistance.

“It’s a bit early in the day to dictate conditions,” said Mayor John Dooley.

Coun. Jesse Woodward liked Logtenberg’s idea and thought it could gain some traction.

“You could probably sell it right but I feel like the amendment is a little bit on the heavy side,” he said.

Coun. Keith Page also opposed the amendment.

“I believe the mural festival submission will come to us for approval regardless. So I would let the artist be the artist,” he said.

City manager Kevin Cormack noted that whatever was proposed as a design for the mural would have to be approved by council.

“As building owners you do have a say as to what goes on the building,” he said. “So you, as council, you have the final say on that.”

A Basin-based artist will be hired to create a piece that is situated above the front doors of City Hall and includes the full height of the building.

The piece would be created on aluminum composite material in the artist’s studio and then installed on City Hall. 

Black said in her letter that the Arts Council would be responsible for all coordination of the project, including securing funding and sponsors, requests for proposals and insurance.

The 2018 mural festival was funded through the city’s Downtown Reserve account and the same funding source will be used for the 2019 event.