Edmonton

Massive Edmonton graffiti wall gets new look at local art festival

One of Edmonton’s longest graffiti walls is getting new coats of paint this weekend as dozens of artists from across western Canada come to leave their mark during a local art festival.

'We did it in true fashion for us, with big dreams and short notice'

About two dozen artists from across western Canada came to an art jam hosted at The Brain Candy Studio Ltd. in northwest Edmonton to give one of the city's largest graffiti walls some new life. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

One of Edmonton's longest graffiti walls is getting new coats of paint this weekend as dozens of artists from across western Canada come to leave their mark during a local art festival.

The Brain Candy Studio Ltd., a collective art space in the city's northwest, hosted an art jam and market on Saturday and Sunday. Graffiti artists, often referred to colloquially as writers, brought out their spray canisters and began recovering the side of the studio building in their signature styles.

Once a muted, canary yellow building — inconspicuously blending into the surrounding neighbourhood — the studio now hosts a massive graffiti-approved wall, clocking in at around 90 metres long and six metres tall. 

"We splashed this wall with a ton of colour and it has an impact now on people," said Trevor Jaeger, who works out of the studio.  

In the lead-up to the weekend festivities, organizers painted over the existing graffiti, giving about 20 artists a fresh street canvas for the weekend. 

By Saturday afternoon, the sound of rattling paint canisters echoed against the building as artists moved in sharp strokes on the face of the wall, while others worked atop cranes, as the first pieces started to take shape. 

"It's always really cool when I'm impressed beyond what I already come to expect," said Christopher James, a local artist and event organizer. "Everyone has their own funk that they bring to the table." 

Local artist and event organizer Christopher James hopes the festival will generate interest in graffiti and boost commissions around the city. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The studio turned its parking lot into an art festival with vendors selling their work to curious patrons.

Whether it's glass blowers or painters, organizers say local artists are reeling from the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many make their living through festivals and markets, mostly shut down during the early months of the pandemic and only now starting to return in small numbers.

"It left a real lapse in the abilities of these artists to generate revenue," Jaeger said. "I think everybody needed it. We've all been cooped up inside." 

The weekend festival also featured live music and the necessary COVID precautions. Organizers say it was a daunting task, planning a festival during a pandemic in just a month's time. 

"We did it in true fashion for us, with big dreams and short notice," Jaeger said. 

Passersby watch artists work from a distance while walking through the studio parking lot, transformed into an art market for the weekend festival. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Others hope the weekend festival will generate interest in graffiti and boost commissions for street artists. 

"This is huge. I think it's going to open doors to more areas, more industrial areas and hopefully more areas downtown, central Whyte Avenue and we can spread it across the city," James said. 

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