Have you ever walked by a mural and thought to yourself, ‘I wonder what the story behind this painting is? Or perhaps you’ve taken a different route home and came across a jaw-dropping mural and thought, ‘wow, I never knew this existed. What a hidden gem!’
I’ve been having these thoughts a lot lately. Walking around Hamilton and taking a moment to admire the art I’ve passed hundreds of times without stopping to think twice about it. Now, I find myself purposely taking a shortcut through an alleyway just to see if there are any murals I may have previously missed. On social media, photos of people in front of murals have become somewhat of a phenomenon. Social media influencers seem to always be on the hunt for a beautiful wall to use as their next backdrop. Perhaps for that reason, I found the topic of murals kept coming up in conversation and I learned that I’m not the only person with an appreciation for the explosion of public art in the city.
It wasn’t long before a group of us began organizing a walk to explore Hamilton’s murals with other people in the community. “We have so many beautiful murals here. Some of them are old, some brand new, and many are hidden away in areas where people may not be familiar”, says Kayla Whitney, the artist behind Koe Design, a local commercial art studio.
“As a muralist myself, I know that most murals hold a story behind them. We thought it would be an excellent opportunity to show these murals to the people of Hamilton, while also giving artists a unique opportunity to share the backstory of their work”, says Kayla.
Murals have a way of building a sense of belonging and can make streets more welcoming and walkable. For Kayla, her main objective is to create work for everyone. “I strive to create murals that serve as an addition to the fabric of an already existing neighbourhood, rather than cover up a community’s past just to simply beautify the area.”
With the support of municipal grants, funding from community development groups, and investments from small business owners and property owners, many empty walls have been transformed into huge canvas works of art. While some who commission the work provide specific direction for the mural, others give full creative freedom to the artist. Kayla recently completed a project for Thuya Studio that she considers a dream come true. “I was given complete artistic freedom to paint whatever I liked and it was such a wonderful process bringing the imagery that is usually reserved for my personal studio practice into the public space.”
The mural walk, which is scheduled for September 23rd from 5-7pm, will bring together mural seekers to explore the downtown core. The organizing group has also been in contact with some of the muralists in the area to learn more about their work and they hope to have a couple join along to talk about their murals in person.
“We initially wanted to do a walk that took people to all of the public art along King, James and Barton street. After a trial run, we realized that there are just too many murals to cover in a single day”, says Liz Enriquez, owner of Shoutouts Hamilton and another one of the organizers of the Downtown Mural Walk.
As street art can be found in almost all corners of the city, the group plans to offer multiple guided tours in the future to cover different neighbourhoods. This first walk will start at the Tivoli Theatre site and head southeast, making stops at least 10 different locations. Attendees will see works from Scott MacDonald, Pete Fowler, Cory Tower, Richard Mace, our very own Kayla Whitney, and of course Lester Coloma, the artist behind some of the most iconic murals in the city.
Coloma is known for large-scale murals that incorporate elements of the history and culture of a neighbourhood. “I find the scale, and attention to detail in his work to be so inspirational, not to mention his colours!”, exclaims Kayla. One of Coloma’s latest pieces can be found on the corner of King Street and West Avenue. It’s the first three-storey mural he has worked on and depicts images of men and women collectively working together to ‘raise the hammer.’
“We have so much beautiful architecture and huge walls surrounded by big open spaces just waiting to be decorated. By hosting these walks, we hope to showcase the murals Hamilton already has and encourage more people to invest in beautifying our great city”, says Kayla.
Stay tuned for more information about the Downtown Mural Walk by following: