Tom Wilson sees Hamilton as a place of opportunity.
And he didn't blink when the opportunity came his way to paint a painting to be blown up and hung on the side of the CBC Hamilton building on James Street North during this month's Juno Awards festivities.
“When I was asked to do the mural, the dime didn’t even hit the floor," he said. "I knew it was something I had to do.”
At an official unveiling on Tuesday, Tim Potocic, chair of the Juno Host Committee, said the mural will be up longer than just for the Juno Awards this weekend. The original, smaller painting by the "all-amazing Tom Wilson" will live in the Tourism Centre.
"We're going to keep it up as long as we possibly can," Potocic said. "This is the epitome of marrying art and music."
Installing the painting as a lasting legacy for the Juno host city is a "dream come true," said Allan Reid, the president and CEO of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He said the Hamilton host committee has been one of the most helpful and engaged committees the Juno Awards has had.
'The Mystic Highway'
The mural is called "The Mystic Highway" and refers to Highway 6 stretching from Hamilton to Port Dover. That stretch of road is what Wilson called a "spiritual bedrock of Canadian rock music."
“There's an energy that comes off the fields down Highway 6,” Wilson said. "Voices coming off the lake. You can feel it as you drive south out of Hamilton. ... Ladies and gentleman, it all leads home, but it all comes back to Hamilton."
A BBC interviewer once said Wilson had a "southern sound," which got him thinking about this "mystic highway."
"This artery out of Hamilton that breathes and bleeds a style of music and a way of performing like nowhere on the planet.”
The mural features rich colours and some text and images that nod to Hamilton's musical history. At the unveiling Tuesday, Wilson listed dozens of artists, from Stan Rogers to Jackie Washington to Arkells — "and, of course, Junkhouse," Wilson said.
"There are so many more artists to mention, but this is my speech and my painting, so."
Funders for the mural included HMV Canada, The Hamilton Music & Film Office and the Juno Awards.
Wilson hopes the mural helps to draw more attention to the contributions of musicians in Hamilton.
“It’s important to acknowledge our heritage because there is a depth to the culture in this city that has not been paid enough attention," he said.
Hear Tom Wilson begin his speech: