Thursday November 27, 2014

EDITORIAL - Street art rekindles good idea


Once upon a time, not so long ago, there were those in Yorkton who had a dream.

The dream would become an idea, which evolved to become a vision, and in time, a beginning reality.

That dream was to create public art in the city, which would be not just aesthetically pleasing to residents, but a cultural draw for tourists.

The idea was one carried out in other communities, and one which held merit for Yorkton.

The metal, cut-out mural on the north wall of the former Liquidation Store building was the first major piece in the city, followed by the more traditional painted one of the west-facing wall of the Liquor Board Store.

Both pieces were funded by a local community-based group initiative Renaissance Yorkton.

And for a time the effort of the group sparked interest from the broader community.

Scoops facilitated some art on their small business along Broadway Street. The Painted Hand Casino would create a major sculpture. Columbia School, followed later by Dr. Brass School, did murals.

Provincial dollars would see a major sculpture created at Shaw Park to mark Saskatchewan’s 100th anniversary, and later a piece at the Gallagher Centre to mark Canada hosting the Winter Olympics in 2010.

But since then the idea has been basically stalled.

The idea of community art is not one business is immediately drawn too, and while the City has offered tax breaks to improve business facades in the downtown, as an example of tax dollars influence change, no breaks were ever targeted at new murals or sculptures.

As for the work of Renaissance Yorkton, its effort stalled as well. With a mural like the one on the Liquor Board Store costing thousands of dollars, funding-raising was a challenge, especially up against the need for dollars for a new hospital plan, a new Parkland College building, and other projects deemed generally more important than community art.

But then along came two young men. They arrived in the city early one Sunday morning, and before they packed their spray cans back in their cars late that afternoon, a colourful new mural would adorn an otherwise boring, aged, wall along a back alley in our city.

The piece, featuring reggae star Bob Marley, a fitting visage on the wall of a Jamaica-themed store, cost less than $500 in paint, and some pizza for street artists just happy to have a wall as a canvas to share their art.

Drive around back alleys in Yorkton and there is wall after wall that is grungy the dirt of decades. They are frankly ugly, and tired, almost everyone in need of fresh paint and some loving care.

And there are street artists out there, from Edmonton to Winnipeg and points in between who would provide that attention for a few cans of aerosol paint and a chance to create art.

It might not be the art envisioned when the first mural was unveiled in the city all those years ago, but it would be new. It would be exciting. It would be something to please residents and draw tourists.

Building owners simply need to be open to the idea of offering up their walls, and the artists and art will come, and an old dream will have a new life.



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