Mural madness grips downtown Sarnia
A group of teenage artists take a breather while making a mural at 175 Exmouth St. on a hot August afternoon. The teenagers were participating in the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery’s Random Acts of Art Workshop. CARL HNATYSHYN/SARNIA THIS WEEK
A paint-stained yet still gregarious group of 14 teenagers spent several days on Exmouth Street last week, toiling, sweating and straining under a beaming, bright sun in order to create a colourful, compelling mural on the wall of Exmouth Street’s Kwik Kopy.
The syndicate of suntanned students were participating in a mural-themes session of the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery’s (JNAAG) annual Random Acts of Art Workshop (RAAW), a program that encourages youth who don’t normally have access to community arts programs to learn about and actively pursue the visual arts. With sessions revolving around a variety of artforms – including photography, textile art and sculpting – teenagers aged 13 to 18 enrolled in the program typically get the opportunity to learn from established, experienced artists, develop their own talents and get hands-on experience of their own in creating mini-masterpieces, said JNAAG’s art collection officer Shelly Mallon.
Professional Toronto-based muralist Dan Bergeron provided method to the students’ mural madness from Aug. 15 to Aug. 19, providing them with a framework in which the students could unleash their own creativity.
“It’s really exciting,” Mallon said. “What’s going on is that these young people are working with a professional mural artist from Toronto, Dan Bergeron. Dan helped them create a design, showed them how to execute the design, helped them to work within a budget and showed them how to deal with a client, Kwik Kopy, as well. So they’re learning a lot of technical skills, design skills and art skills at once.”
While Bergeron taught the students about how to create a mural, ultimately it was up to the students to do all the heavy lifting, Mallon said.
“Dan talked to them and showed them examples of projects he’s worked on,” she said. “After that all 14 students came up with their own individual design and then they looked at the concepts and decided what they wanted to express in their work. All of them worked together to come up with this one original design.”
One of the benefits of the RAAW program is that it gives young, aspiring artists exposure to local artists and those from outside of Sarnia, Mallon said. It also lets teens talk realistically to artists about how to potentially make a living off of art, the ups and downs of the art world and where best to pursue their dreams.
“We run the RAAW program all summer, so we’ve had sessions with textiles, learning how to do silkscreen, we’ve done murals – it’s really nice to work with local artists and artists from outside the community to learn skills and augment what they learn in high school. And it’s a great chance to see different approaches, too,” she said. “Dan is a full-time working artist out of Toronto and he gave a talk to these kids about what being a working artist actually means. Where else can they get that?”
While working in the hot sun evoked a few odd groans and gripes from the teenage Toulouse-Lautrecs, every one of the 14 artists were extremely excited about finishing their public piece-de-resistance on 175 Exmouth St., Mallon said. And the sponsors of the event, Kwik Kopy, had also been divine, she added.
“We’re on track, we’re keeping them motivated. They’ve got lots of water and Tim Hortons is right across the street, so we thank them for the air conditioning. And Kwik Kopy has just been great in supporting us and letting us use this space. They’ve been awesome to sponsor this project really,” she said, smiling. “I mean, it truly is a sponsorship when you let a group go willy-nilly on your wall. But they’re going to make something great.”