THUNDER BAY - For artist, Nick Kushnir, the small things you do every day, from brushing your teeth to walking to work, become the biggest part of your life, and sometimes all it takes to add a little change is a little splash of colour.
“You add a splash of colour, something new, something ridiculous even, then you have to stop, you have to think about it, you have to absorb it,” he said. “It gives you something to notice when there is so much around you that you take for granted.”
There is a whole lot of colour being added to one Thunder Bay street, as Definitely Superior Art Gallery and the Die Active Art Collective prepares to unveil the city’s first ever graffiti alley at the Lost and Found Street Art Festival this Saturday in celebration of the collective’s 10 year anniversary.
The graffiti alley is located on Cooke Street in downtown Port Arthur and Lora Northway, the youth outreach coordinator with Definitely Superior Art Gallery, said the Cooke Street Project has been ongoing for the past four years and has seen more than 70 artists painting on the back walls of several businesses.
“It’s all real work by real local artists,” she said. “And some of them it is their first time painting, but the majority of them now have three or four years of experience.”
According to Northway, graffiti is no different from any other art form, and Thunder Bay is falling behind when it comes to embracing this artistic medium.
“It is an amazing form of art and takes years and years to master,” she said. “In my opinion, it is just as refined as being a high realism painter or something you would see in a gallery space.”
“When you see the work on the street, it fills you with awe, and fills you with good feelings, and it makes you appreciate the young people who do this work,” Northway added.
Permission to paint in the alley was granted by businesses wanting to participate in the project and Northway said having this space for young artists allows them to really put everything into their work without any fear of legal repercussions.
“We have access to endless hours at a wall without feeling like you have to look over your back and have really good art supplies because we are sponsored,” she said.
Sarah Mason, who has been involved with Die Active Art Collective for seven years, said becoming involved in the group really encouraged and inspired her to keep working on her own art, and now, leading one of her own crews on the Cooke Street Project, she is able to be that mentor to other young artists.
“This year was my first year mentoring people myself and it’s really neat to see young people coming out and spray painting for the first time,” she said. “They are in the same position I was in six years ago. It’s really nice to approach that knowing how it feels to come up to a spray paint a wall for the first time.”
There is a variety of styles on display, from graffiti writing, stencil work, to visuals of nature and animals, which is already drawing a lot of attention to the area.
“I think this will be a Thunder Bay favourite for a long time,” Mason said. “The number of people that get put into this projects, and largely youth, that is the most important thing. They are drawn to this and feel like they have a place in the community.”
The Lost and Found Street Art Festival will be held on Saturday, July 14 on Cooke Street from noon to 5 p.m. and 25 local businesses will be participating, 70 youth vendors will be selling works of art, and the murals will be officially unveiled, adding a whole lot of colour to downtown Thunder Bay.
“It’s going to be so cool,” Kushnir said. “I want everybody to show up, especially people who are not even remotely inclined to do art. It’s something to look at. There’s something to celebrate in life, there is beauty to see and experience, and that for me is the ultimate point of doing this.”