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Dilapidated St. Joe's to become home of Canada's largest mural during Up Here 5

Famed street and graffiti artist RISK tackling an enormous 80,000-square-foot mural on abandoned hospital's walls
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It's been called an eyesore and an embarrassment, but during Up Here 5 the dilapidated site of the St. Joseph's Hospital on Ramsey Lake will become something else: the home of the largest mural ever painted on a wall in Canada.

Famed U.S. street and graffiti artist RISK (a.k.a. Kelly Graval) has agreed to paint an 80,000-square-foot mural on the walls of the old hospital, Up Here announced today.

"Up Here 5 will shatter the record for largest mural in Canada next month with an 80,000-square-foot mural in Sudbury," the festival said in a news release. 

According to festival organizers, the mural that will overlook Ramsey Lake will be four times larger than the current record holder. Up Here says guest curator of the fifth edition of the festival, Kwest, helped get RISK on board with the project. That record is currently held by Thompson, Manitoba. The Highland Tower in Thompson sports a 20,000 square foot, photo-realistic wolf mural. You can see that here. 

And Angelo Butera, president and CEO of Panoramic Properties, which owns the site, said he's happy to have his building given a facelift.

“We are thrilled to collaborate on this exciting project for Sudbury. This will likely become the biggest piece of contemporary art in Canada,” Butera is quoted saying in a news release. “It’s our pleasure to provide the canvas to Up Here and their team.”

The former hospital at 700 Paris Street is pretty prime real estate. Perched on the edge of Bell Park overlooking Ramsey Lake, the hospital was once operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph. 

It was purchased by Panoramic Properties in 2010, with an $80-million plan to transform the building into a condominium complex. Those plans were put on hold in 2017 after the local condo market collapsed.

The building has sat idle ever since, looking increasingly dilapidated as the years of inactivity stacked up. The city said back in 2017 that it was working with Panoramic to clean up the site, but little has changed in the past two years.

Calling it "arguably the most important piece of urban real estate in Greater Sudbury," on July 2, Sudbury.com ran a letter from former mayor Dave Courtemanche, who argued that the city should buy the property back and redevelop the land for public use.

"Imagine what we could do with it once the old structure is demolished. We could create a space with floor-to-ceiling glass that provides a breathtaking view of our most cherished landmarks," Courtemanche wrote. "We could invite architectural firms to design a uniquely northern landmark so awe inspiring that it would change our image in the eyes of the world.

"This property shouldn’t be home to a condo complex for the elite few. It should be rescued by the municipality for the public good. It's time to take it back."

Well that won't happen this summer, but RISK, who's known for large-scale, intensely colourful pieces of public art, will be putting his intense, colourful stamp on the old building.

From the Up Here description: RISK is one of the biggest names in the American street art and graffiti scene. His career spans over 30 years of an intense dedication to spray paint. He made a strong impact on the evolution of graffiti as an art form worldwide by pushing the boundaries with his unique letterforms. He was one of the first writers in Southern California to paint freight trains, and he pioneered writing on freeway overpasses.

“His work is eye candy. RISK transforms spaces. When people drive past it on Paris, or see it from across the lake, it will look like a dream factory,” said Christian Pelletier, festival co-founder. “It’s going to tell the world that Sudbury is one of the coolest, most creative places to live.”

The mural locations for Up Here’s other muralists — TRAV MSK, Laura Peturson, and Matti Lehtelä — will be announced shortly.

Barrydowne Paint and Equipment World are once again providing paint and rental equipment for the festival. This year’s murals are also made possible with support from Panoramic Properties, Greater Sudbury Utilities, TD, CBC Sudbury, and Surface Art.




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