With murals at Gonzales Hill and Vic West Park complete, City of Victoria Artist in Residence Luke Ramsey was working to finish off the third and final mural at Hollywood Park this week, in collaboration with local artist Andrew Dick.
Ramsey worked with Powell River-based artist Meghan Hildebrand on the Gonzales mural and Edmonton-based Jill Stanton on the Vic West Park piece. The murals are part of a series dedicated to enhancing neighbourhoods and deterring vandalism.
“Each design is a reflection of the neighbourhood it’s in,” said Ramsey. “The Gonzales one is a reflection of Gonzales Bay and the local flora and fauna. Vic West Park is a reflection of the dog park and the skate park, so we have wacky dogs riding skateboards.”
While each mural has a theme, it is mostly up to the artists to carry out the image.
Ramsey said, “We go into it with a loose context or an idea of what we want to do, but ultimately it’s a freestyle approach. I feel lucky that the city has a trust and confidence in my work and program to allow me that freedom to go freestyle.”
The Hollywood Park mural will reflect the predominantly recreational use of the park by incorporating baseball elements.
He said his mural series idea is a new way to use art to deter vandalism. “[The project] is just livening up the spaces. People graffiti on walls that, a lot of the time, aren’t being used for art. Then the city has an obligation because of bylaws to paint over the graffiti.”
Ramsey has a budget for public art and wanted to use part of the money to undertake collaborative projects that might inspire other local artists. The budget will go toward fees for the guest artist’s time and materials, while the City of Victoria will cover the cost of applying an anti-graffiti coating to each mural.
The projects are inspiring locals, too. “People talk to you about their neighbourhood and their pride for where they live. It reminds me how much people care about art,” Ramsey said.
A former neighbour to Hollywood Park, Dick added, “[The park] is very close to my heart because my grandparents lived one block away, and that was basically my home growing up. This project is very cool. It’s surreal, actually.”
Years ago, the two artists collaborated on a mural project in Victoria West called the Trackside Art Gallery, a series of wall art pieces which has since deteriorated. Working together means coming full circle for the pair. The last major mural Dick completed by himself in Victoria was on the outside of Ocean Concrete on Bay Street in 2003.
“I’m drawn to street art because there’s a lot of freedom of expression,” said Dick. “Certain businesses allow people to paint on their buildings, and the whole community is communicating with each other via these paintings on the walls.”
Collaborating with Ramsey on the City of Victoria’s mural project is another communicative and community-centred opportunity, Dick added. “[Murals] give a sense of community. People are working together and that’s a good feeling.”
Outside of street art, Dick paints predominantly in abstract expressionism and minimalism. “Abstract expressionism is appealing to me, because it’s interpretational. Each person can see different things,” he said, noting that the interpretative aspect of that type of artwork lends itself to communication between people, just as street art does.
All in all, the artists agree the project is about community. Outside of deterring vandals, the three murals are meant to represent neighbourhoods, inspire passersby and motivate a younger generation of artists.