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Locations approved for international mural festival set to begin next month in downtown Nelson

This proposed work by Squamish-based artist Jessa Gilbert — at Park and Morgan streets — is one of the four approved murals to be staged at the upcoming Nelson International Mural Festival next month. — Submitted

The city has approved the four new sites for the upcoming Nelson International Mural Festival, with all artwork to be located on city-owned property and retaining walls next month.

Two of the murals will find a home on city right-of-way retaining walls: at the east end of Vernon Street at the intersection of Park and Morgan streets (prior to the ascent to Gyro Park); and a second on the retaining wall north of Vernon Street that supports Edgewood Street, with Cedar Street below.

The city’s parkade will also see a dash of colour, with separate murals slated for the east wall of the building fronting onto Vernon Street. Previously council had approved a mural application from NDAC for the parkade’s west wall last year, but “due to unforeseen circumstances,” the project did not move forward in that location.

However, one of the parkade murals — a text mural by artist Alexander Fowkes — has hit a slight snag. 

“Due to the timing of the festival next month, not all of the applications have been considered by the CDC,” noted a city staff report to council.

Approval will be given for the mural by council contingent on the CDC’s approval. 

Each artist will be given plenty of time to stage their murals, noted NDAC executive director Sydney Black in council Monday night. There was some concern on council that the locations might come with a degree of logistical difficulty in preparing the murals.

“Everyone has a minimum of seven days for most pieces,” she said. “We are all dialed to make this happen. Everyone has plenty of time.”

The project will take up to 10 days to complete, including surface preparation, noted Black in a letter to council. 

“Ideally the majority of the work occurs on evenings and weekends so as to maximize community engagement as they witness the creation of the piece and minimize alley congestion,” she said.

NDAC is the proponent of the applications, with funding through Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance and the City of Nelson.

The first mural festival was hosted in the city in 2018 and, according to the city’s Official Community Plan and its mural policy, there is an allowance for mural applications in the downtown development permit area. 

But as the property owner of the sites in question for 2019 city council’s permission was required to paint murals on the buildings and walls. Last year council approved all four proposed murals located on city property for the first International Mural Festival.

But before Development Services can issue a permit for the mural another level of approval must be delivered, with the city’s Cultural Development Committee (CDC) reviewing the mural applications and their recommendation must be taken into account. 

Other than the cash infusion and approval of the city-owned “canvasses,” the city is not on the hook for anything further, not having to commit to maintenance of the murals. “NDAC has committed to maintaining the murals on an annual basis, or when notified of any issues with graffiti,” noted the city staff report to council. 

With proper maintenance the mural’s lifespan can be over 20 years, said Black.

Council has also committed $25,000 in funding for 2020’s festival. Last September council approved $25,000 towards the NDAC mural festival.

NDAC itself will carry liability insurance and will be required to sign a “Licence of Occupation” agreement prior to the permit being issued.

All applications must still be referred to the CDC for its recommendation, with the provision the city may withhold a permit if the CDC does not recommend approval.