'Comfort for the mind': Graffiti artist hopes mural lifts spirits during COVID-19

The Warehouse Business Improvement District commissioned the work to stop taggers and welcome people.

The Warehouse Business Improvement District commissioned the work to stop taggers and welcome people

Josh Goff has been a graffiti artist in Regina for decades. He is also a tattoo artist and painter. (Matt Howard/CBC)

A Regina artist is hoping a mural can brighten peoples' spirits during self-isolation. 

"It's comfort for the mind," said Josh Goff. "It feels good to have an escape."

Goff is a graffiti artist whose work can be seen around the Cathedral area. The Warehouse Improvement District commissioned him to create a mural at the boarded up Humpty's restaurant.

"Kind of say thank you to the essential workers," Goff said. "These are the people that are supporting us in this hard time."

Josh Goff said he hopes to have the mural done soon on the boarded up Humpty's restaurant. (Matt Howard/CBC)

Goff said the mural also helps prevent taggers from marking up the restaurant because most taggers respect graffiti art. He said the reaction as he's working is enjoying his work. 

"Lots of honking," Goff said with a laugh. "Lots and lots of honking and sometimes it scares me a little bit. But ... in the end, it's nice."

Having art to go and see is good during tough times, he said. 

"I use a lot of colour in a lot of my work and I always want people to walk away feeling good," Goff said. "It's pretty plain and simple, I just want to brighten someone's day."

Josh Goff is a graffiti artist in Regina. He was commissioned to say a thank you to front line workers. (Matt Howard/CBC)

"We do know that the number of people who were working in the Warehouse District had probably dropped a bit, but that's a major corridor," Leasa Gibbons said. "We also wanted to create a welcome feeling." 

Gibbons is the executive director for the Warehouse Business Improvement District.  She said they thought of Josh Goff because of a piece he did for the Cathedral Arts School on Dewdney Avenue. 

"Josh has a great connection with the community," Gibbons said."So we thought he was a perfect connection in this case."

Josh Goff started work on the mural on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

When Humpty's is able to safely re-open, Gibbons said they plan on preserving the mural and putting it up where people can see. Gibbons said art can help people see things in a new way. 

"Just seeing things in a new way I think allows them to know that there is life out there, we'll find normal, and they're not alone in this," she said. 

Goff's slogans on the mural are 'Stay safe' and 'Be kind.' 

"It's just something that I thought was like a powerful kind of message just being kind and staying safe at the same time," he said.

Josh Goff said he wanted people to remember who we were keeping safe during the pandemic. He started the mural on May 12, 2020. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Goff said it can be tough for artists — including himself — to be inspired during the pandemic, but that they will get through it.  

"Ride it out," he said to other artists. "You don't want to force things. When you force something it doesn't feel genuine and I think that art happens at genuine points."