'Mural alley' to replace graffiti walls on Whyte Avenue

Two popular old Strathcona graffiti-artist “free walls” have closed, but some area businesses want to see more space made available for artists to legally leave their mark.

A 'mural alley' of permanent and semi-permanent graffiti art to replace graffiti free walls

Mural alley proposed to replace Whyte Avenue graffiti free wall

6 years ago
Duration 1:05
Two free graffiti walls in Old Strathcona closed last month, and a "mural alley" of permanent and semi-permanent art is proposed for one of the spaces instead.

Two popular Old Strathcona graffiti art "free walls" have closed, but some area businesses want to see more space made available for artists to legally leave their mark.

The walls were opened two years ago as part of a pilot project offering space for graffiti artists to showcase their work.

One was located behind the Tirecraft building on Whyte Avenue and 101st Street, the other at the Tweddle Place tennis court building near Edith Rogers Junior High School.

The pilot project came to an end last month over "sustainability" issues, said Catherine Kerr Edmonton Arts Council public art director.

The project won't be renewed, but will instead turn into a "mural alley."

"We didn't want to just end it, so we decided to create what we term a mural alley," Kerr said. "We see it as the beginning of hopefully several walls in the alley. What's required, of course, is the engagement of the community."

Kerr said the current plan is to feature permanent and semi-permanent art on the Tirecraft building and others located along the alley between 101 and 102 Streets.

'I'm really sad to see it go'

Kim Fjordbotten owns The Paint Spot, one of the buildings included in the proposed mural alley.

She said the idea is something many artists and businesses are interested in, but it can't replace the point of the pilot project.

"Having artists paid to do art is also something, but the loss of the free wall means we're losing our free space to artists to just come and express themselves and practice," she said.

"It was so much fun. I'm really sad to see it go."

Fjordbotten said the free wall was tremendously popular, and not just with artists who, she said, painted on it every day.

It was also used for painting classes and workshops. Fjordbotten saw wedding and band photos shot in front of the wall, and said it was a "nice adventure" to go down the alley every day and see what new art had popped up overnight.

She said there's large demand for artists to create art in public space — the Paint Spot building has six panels available for public art which are about to go up.

The winning proposals for the murals going up on the The Paint Spot's wall this summer, one of many mural projects proposed to animate the alleys of Old Strathcona. Funding support for this project comes from Capital City Clean Up, and Old Strathcona Business Association and The Paint Spot. (CBC)

When Fjordbotten sent out a call to artists to submit ideas, she received 77 applications, some from as far away as Louisiana.

Still, she'd like to see another free wall for artists to practice and legally leave their mark. 

Kerr said the city will see how the mural alley goes, and isn't ruling out the possibility of more free walls.

"We do support street art, we would love to have an open wall," Kerr said. "To have another accessible location would be fantastic, and maybe we can work towards that."


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