Hamilton

How two Hamilton brothers transformed a drab building into giant artwork

The scene, titled Raise, is meant to illustrate an "ambitious city," according to painter Norman Coloma who crafted it along with his brother, Lester.

'I think seeing murals around town is a sign that things can change and get better,' says painter

The Coloma brothers covered three walls of 1 West Avenue South with a massive mural titled Raise. (Coloma Brothers/Natasha Van Borek)

For years, flaking beige paint covered 1 West Avenue South in Hamilton, but over the past six weeks a pair of painting brothers has transformed the drab building into one of the city's largest artworks.

A massive mural now covers three walls of the corner building, depicting men and women straining to raise a giant hammer with the help of some bright red ropes against a crisp white background.

The scene, titled Raise, is meant to illustrate an "ambitious city," according to painter Norman Coloma who crafted it along with his brother, Lester.

And the fact that those hearty Hamiltonians are hoisting a hammer is no accident.

The brothers were trying to convey a message of citizens working together to lift up their city and figured a literal translation of Hamilton's longstanding nickname might get the message across.

"I think it says Hamilton is ready," said Norman. "I don't think this project would have gone forward if it was 10 years ago. I think people want to see the city grow and I think seeing murals around town is a sign that things can change and get better."

In order to make their vision a reality, the Colomas had to place a projector across the road to cover their huge canvas. They also spent weeks under the blazing sun in a lift, which Lester had to get certified to use.

"It was a lot of up and down and using ladders," laughed Norman.

The brothers grew up in Hamilton as the children of Filipino immigrants. Their father came to Canada in 1968 and worked for years to make enough so his family could join him.

The mural is meant to show an ambitious city, where citizens are willing to work together to raise each other up. (Coloma Brothers/Natasha Van Borek)

Norman left the city for several years, but moved back recently and said hearing words of appreciation and encouragement from residents in the neglected neighbourhood while working on the mural was a great experience.

Conversations the brothers had with passersby are part of an exhibit unveiled along with the mural that includes their quotes about art in the city, along with a portrait.

"To be able to put this project, especially in this part of town, feels really good."

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