There could soon be more legal graffiti walls in Greater Sudbury, with the city’s elected officials appearing receptive to a plan that would allow for more of them to be created.
“This is a fantastic idea,” Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre said during Monday’s city planning committee meeting, crediting the efforts of the Up Here organization with helping beautify the city, from green electrical boxes to large-scale murals.
Up for review was a report by Greater Sudbury senior planner Ed Landry, who deemed a legal graffiti wall pilot project at the back lane of 71 Cedar Street downtown to be a success.
The five-member committee voted unanimously on two motions that would welcome more legal graffiti to take place on the walls of buildings throughout the municipality, which city council will consider at a future meeting.
But, given that all five members of the planning committee also serve on the 13-member city council, it appears likely to become a reality.
The existing graffiti wall, which council approved as a pilot project in 2018, has been a boon to the community and has even resulted in graffiti artists travelling from other cities to participate.
So described Up Here co-founder Christian Pelletier by phone to Sudbury.com prior to Monday’s meeting.
“We’ve got room for a lot more, and I think that the fact that on certain occasions the artwork spills over to either side of the legal walls is an indicator we need more of this stuff,” he said
The wall was covered with white paint a couple of weeks ago in preparation for a fresh coat of art during the annual Up Here urban art and emerging music festival. By Monday, it was seen covered by an eclectic display of colourful words and images.
While loading flowers into a vehicle in the back lane across from the mural on Monday, Rosary Florist employee Albert Wierzbicki said he has enjoyed seeing it progress.
“It’s artwork,” he said while shooting a glance at the wall, adding that one downside is that it quickly becomes overcrowded. He’d like to see the wall cleared more regularly.
The goal, Pelletier said, is for the wall to be given a fresh coat of white paint every April, August and October, since most artists prefer to have a blank canvas to work on.
“That way it doesn’t overspill over the boundaries or get too crowded,” he said, adding that his hope is that the city will lend the project a budget to allow for more regular whitewashing.
Although there has been some graffiti spillover onto unapproved walls, Landry’s report notes there have been no complaints from neighbouring property owners.
Further, Pelletier said the city’s sanctioned murals, which grow in number during each year’s festival, have seen less vandalization since the graffiti wall went up.
Although Landry’s report notes that Greater Sudbury Police Service has continued to see mischief graffiti happen downtown, they are in support of the circulation and review of future legal graffiti walls.
In addition to directing Greater Sudbury staff to draft an appropriate bylaw to allow for the creation of additional graffiti walls, Landry also included a resolution for staff to develop a permitting process for additional graffiti.
As it stands, if a graffiti artist creates something illegally, the onus to remove it is on the property owner, who contravenes a city bylaw if they fail to do so. A municipal permitting process would allow the opportunity for the art to remain in place if the property owner chooses to apply.
The legal graffiti wall has been a resounding success from Day 1, Pelletier said, crediting it with helping get a few artists off the ground. One example is Sarah Dempsey, who started off painting an electrical box, gained additional experience on the graffiti wall and created her first official mural, of a griffin, at 194 Elgin Street, during last month’s Up Here festival.
“Now that we’ve seen the success of the legal wall downtown, it does make a case for doing more legal walls throughout the communities.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.