Brockville Walls Project brightens the downtown

Artists Guy Wales and Aleatha Aiken-Sherrer pose by the mural they helped create at the corner of King Street West and St. Paul Street. (RONALD ZAJAC/The Recorder and Times) jpg, BT

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“It’s so bright, it looks photoshopped.”

Aleatha Aiken-Sherrer doesn’t strike me as the bragging type, but anyone driving up St. Paul Street of late would notice what she’s talking about, and agree in this case she’s earned her share of the bragging rights – and the above-quoted comment would be a more-than-justified brag.

The Brockville artist joined Guy Wales (he of the well-known 3D street art, among other things) as the main creators of the floral mural at the corner of St. Paul Street and King Street West, what is hoped to be the first of many achievements of the Brockville Walls Project.

The mural, a striking depiction of sunflowers, poppies and coneflowers, adorns the back of the Coin Hunter property owned by Paul Klepaczko, who allowed the use of his wall for the project.

The building also houses From Here To Infinity Gallery, run by Klepaczko’s mother, Ewa, widow of the late photographer Gordon Beck. The mural was dedicated to Beck, a great friend of the local arts community who died last year.

Wales is particularly pleased at how the mural is visible to anyone heading out from Hardy Park, or leaving the Brockville Arts Centre parking lot.

“It really brightens up that area. You see it right away,” said Wales.

The mural was officially unveiled during September’s Brockville Culture Days. Russ Disotell, the driving force behind that event, is also one of the movers and shakers behind the walls project.

Another is Jay Batu, a BCI grad currently studying at the University of Ottawa.

Batu, who describes himself as an art enthusiast rather than an artist, was struck by the way street art enhanced other cities in North America and around the world.

He figured Brockville could use more street art, and joined Disotell in launching the local effort.

The entire project, from its conception to its completion right before Culture Days, took nearly two years, the artists recalled.

The nature of the work required the right kind of weather, so much of it happened in the summer months.

“We would start late in the day because the scaffolding would get so hot we couldn’t touch it,” recalled Wales.

Aiken-Sherrer did the original sketch, describing her style, appropriately, as a combination of floral and whimsical, while Wales added in the “architecture,” drawing the surrounding bricks and ledge.

With the utmost respect for local heritage, the pair said it was agreed early on that this new mural would not be in any way historical, but rather be colourful and depict something with which everyone could identify.

Aiken-Sherrer notes that, not only do these flowers contrast beautifully in their colours, they are also all flowers that grow here.

They took on something big as their first project, a challenging canvas that required, among other things, height awareness training to work on the scaffolding.

While Wales and Aiken-Sherrer did most of the painting, they did get some help from volunteers. They worked with materials donated or paid for by a number of businesses, all of which are listed on a sign dedicating the mural.

Successfully tackling this big project has emboldened the two artists, who are now searching out new locations for their next project next spring and summer.

“If we don’t we’ll lose our momentum,” said Wales.

They note that, if they can take on smaller-scale murals next time, they might even get more than one finished in 2020.

“We’ll see what Brockville will give us,” said Aiken-Sherrer.

Like the two artists, Batu is pleased that the mural is a big, bright accomplishment to which the group can point as it tries to find other downtown property owners willing to house the next one.

“With one mural sort of under our belt, I think we’re well prepared to do another one,” said Batu.

City hall reporter Ronald Zajac can be reached at Rzajac@postmedia. com.

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