If you have travelled down Paris Street recently, you are sure to have noticed the colourful makeover of the former St. Joseph's Hospital that has the whole city talking.
Los Angeles-based muralist RISK — a.k.a. Kelly Graval — took on the task of transforming the enormous brick building into Canada's largest mural on behalf of Up Here Urban Art and Music Festival.
But 13 days after taking on the immense challenge, RISK and his team are returning home today, unable to complete his original vision for the site, due to a confluence of factors: weather conditions, equipment thefts and the challenge of painting certain difficult-to-access areas of the property. While the side of the building facing Paris Street is complete, the side facing the lake (in the area around the helipad) remains unpainted.
In response to the most recent theft — in which thousands of dollars worth of equipment was stolen from the site's padlocked trailer — organizers asked the public for help to find the thieves and help them cover the cost of the stolen items.
Despite (incorrect) rumours regarding the use of public funds, it was the first time Up Here organizers have asked for outside support for the project.
The majority of funding for the hospital mural was provided by Panoramic Properties, said Christian Pelletier, co-founder and organizer of Up Here. The company covered the cost of hiring RISK and his supporting crew, as well as levelling the surrounding area for lift access. Remaining expenses were covered by Equipment World, which provided a series of lifts; Garson Pipe, which helped with site preparation and ran temporary piping for artists to mix with their paint when spraying; and Cooper Equipment Rental.
Lastly, paint was provided at a discount by PPG paints and Delux Paint. Pelletier did say the festival received a grant from Celebrate Ontario on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, a portion of which was allocated to the project, but this investment was minimal compared to the contribution of community partners.
Celebrate Ontario is a program dedicated to supporting new and existing festivals by attracting tourists for longer stays.
It was a worthy investment, said Pelletier, not only to give the long-decommissioned property a much-needed pop of colour, but to keep Sudbury on the radar of the international artistic community.
"For us, public art is a political act … about reclaiming public space, and this is one of the biggest pieces of public space that has been at a stand-still for a couple of years," said Pelletier.
"So to take it back into our public space by putting a mural on it, as colourful, inclusive and diverse at it is – I think that's really important."
Representatives of Panoramic Properties approached Up Here festival a couple of years ago with the proposition of completing a mural on the historic property said Pelletier, but it took quite some time to find the right artist for the job.
Pelletier said they would send photos of the property to potential muralists in the past few years, but it wasn't until their guest curator, Kwest, got in contact with RISK that the project took off.
Pelletier said he's confident the mural will remain in place for at least a few months, but the property will be developed in the long run. He'd be happy to see the site developed into a "true public space." That, he said, was one of the reasons Up Here chose to work with RISK, because due to his level of experience he understood that public art is most often temporary.
Despite its temporary status, Pelletier said Canada's largest mural has already received millions of views on social media and was enough to convince many people to visit Sudbury for the music and arts festival.
"RISK is a big name in the street art world … those that know him will travel long distances to see his work and see him at work," said Pelletier.
While the crowds of spectators are great for local business, Pelletier said seeing families and kids together watching the massive creation come together solidified for him the importance of the mural project.
"It adds wonder and magic to our city and I think that's really, really awesome," he said.
"There are people that aren't going to like it, and that's totally fine," he said. "When you visit any art gallery in the world there are pieces you love and pieces you don't...(but) it's exactly what we hoped it would be."