Smile Windsor: An arts student's public message

Jeff Bassett spends hours every week pasting posters wth the word smile on any number of Windsor's abandonded, burned out and derelict buildings.

Jeff Bassett has been plastering the city in posters encouraging Windsor to smile

A visual arts major at the University of Windsor has a simple message for the city: Smile.

Jeff Bassett spends hours every week pasting posters on any number of Windsor's abandoned, burned out and derelict buildings.

"I’m sick of people walking around in their environment and experiencing their day to day lives ignoring everything around them. They’re lost in their phones, they’re lost in their iPods," Bassett said. "I’m trying to draw a positive from a negative."

Bassett uses five letters and pictures of penguins, puppies, babies and other cute and funny photos he's culled from the internet to spread his message.

He runs the photos past roommates and friends for approval before he pastes them somewhere fitting in the city.

He also uses pictures of Mother Teresa, Jimi Hendrix and Ghandi.

Bassett said what he does isn't graffiti, it's street art.

"The difference between street art and graffiti is a fine line. Graffiti has connotations to gangs. Street art has positive connotations," he said. "These are buildings abandoned by society."

For example, a huge message hangs from the derelict former Grace Hospital site, which is overgrown with weeds, has piles of rubble on site and not a window to be had in the building.

"It’s definitely easier to get away with something when you put it on a building that’s been ignored for four years," Bassett said.

One of his more recent works is a pink, two-metre tall Hello Kitty at Windsor's closed downtown bus depot. Police caught him pasting that one at night.

"To be fair it was the middle of the night and I was looking a little sketchy. I hid initially," Bassett said. "They were cool about it. They weren't sure what to think when they saw a five-foot Hello Kitty behind me."

Bassett used to do his work with a spray can in the dark of night. It's since evolved. He gained notoriety through friends and classmates, he said."It’s driven me to do more," he said. "It’s evolved into a campaign as opposed to something I did for fun."

Bassett said people often stop him, comment on his work and congratulate him on what he's doing.

"They tell me to keep going," he said.

He will. 

Bassett's been commissioned to paint a mural in Windsor's Ford City neighbourhood.

Mike Evans filmed Bassett at work: