Sydney Black is planning an ambitious cultural event for next summer. Photo submitted

Nelson council backs mural festival

‘It will be like Europe: beautiful old stone main street with hidden gems in the back alleys’

City council decided on Monday to contribute $25,000 to a mural festival planned as an annual event starting in the summer of 2018.

The Nelson International Mural Festival is an initiative of Sydney Black and the Nelson and District Arts Council (NDAC). The murals would be painted in the alleys off Baker Street and would have a lifespan of five to 10 years.

“There are so many professional muralists here, and so many of them are making murals in other places,” Black said.

The NDAC will put out a call to international artists, then curate the submitted designs and match the artists up with specific buildings. About 12 downtown business owners have presented letters of support to council, however locations have yet to be confirmed.

“Artists are given artistic freedom to create, in conversation with the festival curator and building owners,” Black said. “If a creative collaboration between building owner and artist can not be met, the building owner will have the option to withdraw.”

Murals won’t be painted on heritage brick or stone.

Painters will work for seven days on their murals before the festival opens. Local painters would start earlier than that.

“We don’t want to congest the alleys, so one new piece will be going up every week, and people can walk around seeing those pieces go up, experience that, from beginning to end. It will be like Europe: beautiful old stone main street with hidden gems in the back alleys. There is so much momentum for this.”


Nelson to unveil Baker St. plan (April, 2017)

Downtown redesign goes public (April, 2017)

The hub of the festival will be three days of celebrations and educational sessions upon completion of the murals, including walking tours, artist talks, youth engagement sessions with the youth centre, historical mural collaborations with Touchstones, and a street dance party.

“Street dances have been ridiculously successful when we do them at Hall Street Plaza,” Black said.

Public input into the city’s Downtown Urban Design Strategy in the summer of 2016 and the spring of 2017 saw many participants asking for improvement of the laneways, and murals are part of the strategy’s Lanes Alive Program.

The money for the festival will come from the downtown reserve fund which has its source in city parking meters.

“Back when the Liberals changed from HST back to GST, that was a savings,” the city’s financial manager Colin McClure told the Star. “So now we only have to provide the government the five per cent instead of the 13 per cent … and we decided we would use that as a new-found revenue source that would let us provide funding toward downtown and waterfront revitalization programming.”

The reserve receives about $80,000 annually.

Black had asked the city for $40,000, but she is not undeterred by getting $25,000.

“I feel very very appreciative that the city is on board, and I feel like it will take a bit more elbow grease. We will just need to work a bit harder,” Black said.

She said the city’s contribution will help the NDAC leverage funds from other places to fulfill the project’s budget of $71,100, which includes payment of the artists.


A ‘pedestrian scramble’ for Nelson’s Ward and Baker? (June, 2016)

Nelson developing downtown strategy (June, 2017)

Nelson mural movement picks up momentum (October, 2017)

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The mural on the approach to the Orange Bridge was created by a variety of artists in 2009. Photo: Tyler Harper

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