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Victoria public artist's term extended as murals multiply

When Luke Ramsey was named the city’s first public artist for 2017, official expectations were vague.

Luke Ramsey's latest, largest project involved 11 collaborators, including graffiti artists

Luke Ramsey invited 10 other artists from Victoria, Kelowna and London, Ontario to collaborate on this mural in the North Park neighbourhood. (Ryan Kemsley )

When Luke Ramsey was named the city's first public artist for 2017, the job description was vague.

He was expected to identify and develop at least one public art project over the year-long residency.

But this week, Victoria city council renewed Ramsey's position for a second year just as final touches were completed on his fifth and largest project.

The North Park mural was a collaboration by Luke Ramsey and 10 other artists: Mohammedh Ali Kahn, Sarah Jim, Kay Marie Gallivan, James Kirkpatrick, Kristofer Ray, Ian David George, Jesse Campbell, Araven Calledcrow, Tyler Keeton Robbins and Samson Gafka. (Luke Ramsey)

Victoria Coun. Chris Coleman, speaking to council, said Ramsey's works provided inspiration for neighbourhoods across the city — and had reduced graffiti removal costs. 

The latest collaborative mural engaged 11 artists to transform two buildings on a drab corner in the North Park neighbourhood.

Ramsey and artists Jill Stanton and Kristofer Ray transformed a concrete stairwell on the Dallas Road waterfront with a mural titled ""Mother Protector Hawk and Home." (Luke Ramsey)

Ramsey's influence on the city's look seized wide public attention in September, when a peeling concrete structure on the Dallas Road waterfront was covered in a mural titled "Mother Protector Hawk and Home."

The stairwell from the cliffs to the beach is painted to resemble a sheltering wing of a giant raptor, its eyes aligned with drainage holes near the top. 

Ramsey worked with artist Jil van Stantøn on the mural covering the public washroom at a dog park in Victoria West. (Luke Ramsey)

Ramsey's earlier murals covered exterior walls of public washrooms in Hollywood Park, at Gonzales Beach and at a dog park on Wilson Street in Victoria West. 

For North Park, Ramsey designed the concept, consulted the neighbourhood association on the colour palette and selected the collaborating artists. 

He felt the first four murals cast a spotlight on his own work. 

Artist Andrew Dick collaborated with Ramsey for the mural outside the public toilet at Victoria's Hollywood Park in the Fairfield neighbourhood. (Luke Ramsey)

"I really wanted to shine that spotlight on other artists I've been inspired by," he said. 

Ramsey said he hopes to see more artists get the opportunity to contribute to works during his second year as the city's public artist, because the cost of living in Victoria is a struggle for many of them. 

"A city just isn't good unless you have artists to be a part of it," he said. 

Ramsey, left, worked with Powell River artist Meghan Hildebrand on a mural wall for the public bathrooms at Gonzales Beach in Victoria. (Luke Ramsey)

Ramsey said people often ask whether he's concerned about vandalism.

"This is the fifth mural project that I've worked on this summer and not one of them has been vandalized or messed with," he said.

Ramsey said response to the murals has been overwhelmingly positive. 'I think it improves the social space immensely because people feel like they own it.' (Luke Ramsey)

Graffiti artists were among the team recruited to paint the North Park mural. 

"I think once the word goes out to other artists who are into doing graffiti and spraying paint and they see that there's opportunities for art, I hope that they will get more walls. I hope that those artists get opportunities like this."