New Brunswick

Street arts festival features artists painting murals across Moncton

Artists are using the Hub City's urban landscape as their canvas this week as part of the second edition of Festival Inspire.

Festival Inspire features disco bike ride and stilt walking workshop

Dan Kitchener works on his mural inspired by the movie, Blade Runner, back in 2016. (CBC)

Artists are using the Hub City's urban landscape as their canvas this week as part of the second edition of Festival Inspire.

The five day street arts festival started Wednesday. It includes murals, live art, visual projection mapping, street performance and music. 

Nine murals will be painted, while the Capitol Theatre and Youth Quest Central will feature art installations. 

Lisa Griffin, co-founder of the festival, said the event is "three times bigger" in its second year. The project originally began when she and co-founder Matt Williston pitched the idea to the city of Moncton last year.

They received funding to hire artists from Montreal to create two murals, which can both be seen on St. George Street.

Portrait painter Kevin Ledo painted the image of a homeless man's face on the side of 110 St. George Street, while Jason Botkin created the cartoonish and surreal canoe scene on the side of 417 St. George Street. 

The murals were so popular that Griffin and Williston received funding to create a festival, during which four more murals were created. 

Street art basics

Festival Inspire volunteer Josephine Watson is a Monctonian who spent time living in Montreal. 

Josephine Watson, a volunteer with Festival Inspire says the murals will last a decade. (CBC)
She recalls how the city was treated like a canvas by street artists to show off their talent in painting and express their political activism. 

"It sort of became a bit of the norm, it's something you're very, very used to seeing. What it does is it gets art on the mind."

Watson added the murals created during the festival would last a decade. 

Moncton artist Jared Betts is working on an abstract mural on Lutz Street, which he hopes will be finished on Saturday.

Jared Betts plans to have the abstract mural he is working on completed by Saturday. (CBC)
He explained the link between street art and other alternative subcultures, such as punk music and skateboarding.

"I lived in Calgary and Toronto for a while, and just at the skate parks, you see there's different graffiti and street art. They all kind of merged together. Skateboarding and snowboarding is pretty wild, and being up on four storey scaffolding is pretty wild too!"

Dan Kitchener, an artist from London who is known as DANK in art circles, is working on a Blade Runner inspired mural of a rainy cityscape behind Main Street's Taj Mahal restaurant. He explained how street art has boomed in London and other cities in the United Kingdom 

"It's huge. It's everywhere. I guess it started in East London, and it's sort of exploded everywhere now."

Kitchener has been a part of street art festivals across the globe, but Festival Inspire is his first time in Canada. 

"I paint sort of similar landscapes a lot of the time but it had to be designed for the wall. It's specific to this wall so it's unique," he said. 

He will be putting the finishing touches on his piece this Friday. 

Other activities

The Festival Inspire started on Wednesday and continues until June 19.

Dan Kitchener, known as DANK works on a mural during Festival Inspire. (CBC)
Other than the murals, the festival includes activities like a disco bike ride hosted by Mayor Dawn Arnold, a music show, as well as workshops in everything from beat boxing to stilt walking. 

Going forward, Griffin said the core idea of the festival is to turn the city into a public art gallery. She adds the festival consciously approaches a mix of local and international artists, in order to invite new influences into the local art scene. 

"I think what it's doing is it's opening Moncton up and creating a larger family of artists," said Watkins.