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COLUMN: Why muralists come to Nelson, in their own words

Sydney Black talks to artists ahead of the Nelson International Mural Festival
Australian-based muralist Styna is seen here painting her piece during the 2022 Nelson International Mural Festival. Photo: Emilee Wheeler

by Sydney Black

Hello arts lovers!

Mural season has wrapped for the Arts Council and we are getting ready to celebrate this weekend (Aug. 11 to 13) at the sixth annual Nelson International Mural Festival. We are basking in the beauty of the four additional murals that were created in Nelson as a part of the festival, and the two youth-led murals that were produced in collaboration with the Youth Action Network’s Youth Arts Action Committee.

This year, 935 muralists from countries all around the globe applied to be a part of the festival, so our five-member, arms-length jury had their work cut out for them! We have been so fortunate to host a multitude of incredibly talented muralists from our backyard and beyond and often wonder how so many incredible artists have opted to apply for our small festival in the middle of nowhere. Here’s what a select few have said about the experience of painting in Nelson.

IMAGINE, who joined us in 2022 from Kathmandu and Boston, was struck by the beauty of the area immediately when she arrived.

“I was already so excited because the airport really reminded me of the airport in my hometown, Kathmandu, where you walk directly on the tarmac when the plane lands. You’re also immediately surrounded by mountains and hills here just like you are in Kathmandu because it’s a valley. Everyone has been so warm, and it’s so beautiful here. Every single day I woke up and I was so happy to walk to my wall because the walk is beautiful. This is probably the most beautiful place I’ve gotten to paint a mural in.”

IMAGINE’s mural Smooth Skies is something of a love letter to Nelson, repeating the words “may the skies stay forever blue” written in Sanskrit over and over again.

Fatspatrol (Fathima Mohiuddin), joining the festival this year from Toronto and Dubai, also had the environment on her mind.

“This week I’ve really thought about what a privilege it is to have clean water and clean air and to be able to live amongst wildlife and to see the sky. Sometimes my art isn’t only about me and my angst; it’s made people really happy this week and that in itself has given me such a different sense of purpose. I talk about darkness a lot in my life and work so it was nice to be in the light this week and to live lightly.”

NASARIMBA (Mikhail Miller and Rachel Ziriada), an artist duo based out of Calgary who painted Moonshadow spoke, about their chats with people in the neighbourhood.

“It’s been great to talk to people, both locals and visitors. I think this part of the summer is a busy time here in the city. It was so nice to be surrounded by people who were curious, as well as being surrounded by mountains. We loved seeing the lake and the 360 views when we were at the top of the lift.”

Miller has ties to the Slocan Valley and remembered coming to the Kootenay Co-op as a child to get snacks. He felt it brought him “full circle” to be painting a mural on the old Co-op building this year.

We are honoured to be able to facilitate these experiences and look forward to you joining us this weekend, whether it be on Friday night at the patio parties or live performances at downtown murals, on Saturday at a workshop or our street party in Railtown (at the Visitor’s Centre parking lot) or on Sunday at our screening of Exit Through the Gift Shop at the Civic Theatre.

All events are free of charge and more information can be found at

Sydney Black is executive director of the Nelson and District Arts Council.