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'Eyesore into eye candy': Up Here excited to turn St. Joe's hospital into Canada's largest mural

Entire surface of the hospital — including the windows — will be painted over in abstract 'moray of colours'
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By the time August is out, the former hospital on Paris Street will be completely painted over with a colourful, abstract mural commissioned by Up Here Urban Art and Music Festival, which runs this year Aug. 16-18.

And in the opinion of festival organizer Christian Pelletier, the mural by famed Los Angeles, California-based street and graffiti artist RISK (a.k.a. Kelly Graval) will greatly improve the look of the derelict site.

“No, it's going to be awesome,” Pelletier said. “It's going to be one of the biggest pieces of contemporary art in Canada. His work is just super colourful and fun.

“It'll make us all smile whether you're sailboating on the lake or seeing it from the Laurentian University campus or driving through on Paris Street. It's going to turn an eyesore into eye candy.”

The 80,000-square-foot mural will cover every surface of the hospital formerly known at certain points in its history as St. Joseph's Health Centre and Sudbury General Hospital.

That includes the windows, which will also be painted over.

Once completed, it will be the largest mural in Canada, shattering the record held by Thompson, Man., where there's a 20,000-square-foot mural of a wolf on the Highland Tower.

Reached by phone by Sudbury.com, RISK said the mural will be an abstract “moray of colours.” He'll start work on the project with a team of six Aug. 14, and it will take them about two weeks to complete.

“It's cool,” he said. “I love the fact that I'm painting total coverage, and I get to paint the windows. Stuff like that is really cool. Usually we spend so much time 
just taping off windows and stuff like this.

“I figure it's going to be a massive statement to paint the windows. It's going to look like a sculpture.”

RISK said he's also excited about the fact that the hospital painting project is going to set a record.

“I'm getting a lot of DMs on Instagram,” he said. “People are really excited about it. That's always a good thing.”

Painting derelict structures isn't a totally new concept to the artist — he said he once painted an abandoned stadium in Miami.

A press release from Up Here described RISK as 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, the festival said.

The artist was one of the first letterform artists in Southern California to paint freight trains, and he pioneered putting his mark on freeway overpasses.

RISK said he's thrilled the Up Here organizers invited him to Sudbury for the project. “I just can't wait to get down there to do it,” he said.

Sudbury.com also requested an interview with site owner Panoramic Properties, which bought the former hospital on Paris Street in 2010 with yet-to-be-realized plans to turn the building into condominiums, but did not receive a response.

Panoramic Properties CEO Angelo Butera did provide a statement about the hospital mural in a news release about the project put out by Up Here. It reads as follows:

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

Pelletier said Panoramic actually approached Up Here a couple of years ago with the idea of a mural going up at the site.

“We said 'You guys are crazy … we'll see,'” he said. “It was basically like it's a giant canvas, and we needed to find the right artist.”

RISK saw a picture of the hospital on the internal website of potential mural sites circulated to Up Here artists, and wanted to tackle the project.

After initially laughing off the idea, Up Here organizers looked into RISK's work and style and said “all right, let's meet with Panoramic to see if they'd actually be interested.”

Pelletier said he can't speak for Panoramic, but as far as he knows, the company still plans to eventually proceed with its condominium project.

The RISK mural will be ephemeral, as it will likely eventually be covered over in some type of cladding.

“I think generally, as with any public art, there's going to be some people who love it and some people who don't,” Pelletier said.

“When you go to the national art gallery, you see piece that you love, and you see pieces that you don't love as much, and that's totally fine.”

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly called the project the "world's largest mural." That has been corrected to Canada's largest.




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Heidi Ulrichsen

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