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Up Here's back! Nickel City's wackiest summer festival returns this week

Fifth edition of urban art and music festival will see derelict Paris Street hospital painted by famed graffiti artist

Christian Pelletier describes the Up Here Urban Art and Music Festival, which started in 2015 under the now-retired name “Up Fest,” as a “crazy project to dream up.”

But that crazy project has survived and thrived, and Up Here celebrates its fifth year Aug. 16-18 with its signature mix of murals and other forms of art in and around the downtown, music and family friendly fun.

“It's really exciting,” said Pelletier, one of the festival's creators. “The festival is growing, and we're attracting more and more international talent.

“We've been able to get more and more local people involved … I remember the first year was all about just trying to get people to understand the direction we were going in, and now people get it. They're on board.”

Up Here has now commissioned 30 murals in total, and that doesn't include a festival project that has seen hydro boxes colourfully painted.

“In terms of public art, definitely, I think it's an undeniable difference,” Pelletier said.

“When we were first starting this, we were talking about this idea of an urban art gallery, and people didn't quite understand what that meant. But I think when we say that now, people get it.”

Of course, what everyone is talking about this year is Up Here's plans to turn the former hospital on Paris Street into the largest mural in Canada.

Famed Los Angeles-based street and graffiti artist RISK said he'll paint over the entire structure, including the windows, in an abstract “moiré of colours.”

Other murals going up for Up Here 5 include one in the TD Parking Lot by Sudbury's own Matti Lehtelä, another at 159 Louis St. by Laura Peturson of Callander (near North Bay) and one at Old City Hall on Cedar Street by TRAV MSK of California.

Six new hydro boxes are also being painted, and Up Here is branching out by commissioning a permanent sculpture by graffiti sculptor KWEST and Manitoulin Island-based metal fabricator One KWE outside of the McEwen School of Architecture.

Of course, Up Here is also a music festival, and will feature more than 40 established and emerging acts at venues including The Grand and the Laughing Buddha.

Musical headliners this year include First Nations hip hop duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids, all-female Icelandic hip-hop band Reykjavikurdaetur, Juno Award-winning Canadian electropop duo Milk and Bone and veteran American band ESG.

The festival’s signature geodesic dome (and pop-up bar) will also return to Durham Street. The main dome area will have its own unique schedule of musical acts and DJs to keep the party going.

Access to the festival’s main site is free throughout the weekend.

For those with kids, or if you just don't want to stay up late to take in concerts, Up Here is bringing back its family friendly street festival on Durham Street from 11 a.m. To 4 p.m. Aug. 17.

The event includes face painting, mural tours, mini-mural making for kids, an art crawl and free concerts by Steven Lambke, Alexandria Maillot, Greyson Gritt and Shaky Stars.

Check out Up Here's full schedule or purchase tickets by visiting its website,, its Facebook page or downloading the Up Here app.


Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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