For the past few years Korinä Langevin has admired the evolving, collaborative mural on Victoria St., which so far has featured an osprey mid-flight, a purple gorilla in a hardhat urging passersby “Don’t Trust the Crayon People” and a cyborg lobster wearing bunny slippers.
“When we first moved in there was a lot of different stuff in the back. There were some bears, and some koi fish,” Langevin, who just opened her new business Red Light Ramen, told the Star.
She commissioned Burning Man artist Shrine On to complete its most recent iteration, which has been praised by the Nelson and District Arts Council.
“I just loved the mural and the street art. I would be sitting at El Taco watching people walk by and all the kids would stop and walk up to it. The tourists would want to get their photos taken with it. It was one of the few places in Nelson where there was interesting street art.”
And according to her, “there’s a need for that and a lack of it.”
Langevin’s business opens on to an alley between Baker St. and Victoria, and a quick glance at her surroundings reveals grey buildings with multiple splotches where graffiti has been covered. She decided it was a priority to take pride in her space.
One touch: she’s mounted a sheep skull from the White Crow Farm above her entrance.
“This whole project is about creating more art in our community, and art that isn’t exclusive to people who can afford to step into a high-end gallery. We wanted to make a place that’s accessible to everyone. People walking down the alley collecting cans can go ‘whoah, that’s awesome’.”
“We’re such a liberal, forward-thinking town but where’s the art to feed the youth? Why is there nowhere for people to go and be inspired, to celebrate their culture?”
Langevin admires the work of local artists such as Coleman Webb, Amber and Sergio Santos and Matty Kakes. She believes art projects such as hers, which strain the boundaries of societal norms and capture the unique ethos of the Kootenays.
“We’re not just these perfect, contained, well-manicured people. We’re unique individuals.”
And the unique individual she enlisted for this project is most famous for being the first Burning Man artist to create the temple at the annual bacchanal after the founding artist.
“I lived in San Fransisco and Oakland for a couple of years, and I went to a lot of music festivals,” said Langevin. “I was kind of tuning into the art culture in East Bay and then I met Brent Allen Spears AKA Shrine On, and I happened to be at Burning Man the year he built the temple.”
The experience stayed with her.
“It was one of the most mind-blowing, beautiful experiences. It was making something beautiful out of what’s already there, so he used painted metal and trash and these found items to create this beautiful space.”
So though Shrine On was booked to tour through New York and Europe, Langevin convinced him to fly out to Nelson to complete a mural for her business—and she could barely believe her luck.
“We’ve always been close friends and for him it’s more important to be involved in projects he can stand behind and be proud of than getting a million dollars. He believed in me and he believed in this project, because we’re doing all local farms and supporting the local economy.”
Langevin went through the Youth Means Business program to start Red Light Ramen, which she co-owns with her father Joseph—who owns El Taco across the street. The mural stands between the two businesses, and Shrine On has added some stylistic flourishes to his building as well.
“The coolest thing about this project is it’s really sparking people’s minds. I’ve had so many different conversations with artists who say ‘this is incredible.’ This isn’t graffiti, it’s not about bringing a place down. This is about bringing the whole community up.”