A trio of local artists have been spending this past week painting new murals in downtown Nanaimo and by Saturday their work will be complete.
Kara Dee Harrison, Russell Morland and Austin Weflen were the three artists chosen to add their art to downtown walls for the inaugural Hub City Walls mural festival, put on by the Humanity in Community Foundation.
Harrison’s mural, on Front Street below Vancouver Island Military Museum, depicts otters floating through cosmic waters, Morland’s piece, at the 95 Cavan St. parking lot, shows one of his surreal, cartoony characters lounging in a bed of mushrooms, and Weflen’s piece, in the Bastion Street parkade stairway, has the phrase ‘Harbour City Livin’ emblazoned on a black and gold patterned background.
In each annual instalment, Hub City Walls will bring more murals to Nanaimo and this year’s participants agree that the city has much to gain from such a project.
“Honestly, I think it’s crucial just for the morale of the public. Seeing bits of art everywhere seems to brighten someone’s day,” Weflen said.
He added that his design is “nautical-inspired” and aims to recognize the Nanaimo and Vancouver Island lifestyle. He said he loves working with local artists and feels blessed that he was chosen for Hub City Walls.
Morland said he’s been having a lot of people stop by to watch him at work over the past week and that they’re “stoked” to see the murals go up. He described his painting as a fun image that combines the characters that he has been drawing over the past 20 years, only this time, they’re bigger than ever.
“I think most cities have something like this going on and it’s about time Nanaimo got into that groove a little bit as well,” he said. “And I think what they’re doing is a really good, positive thing for downtown.”
Also painting on her largest canvas yet is Harrison. She’s been making otter-inspired art for the past couple of years, and as those works have been well-received, she decided to return to otters for her mural design.
She said Hub City Walls reminds her of the first time she came to Vancouver Island as a child and was amazed by the number of murals she saw in Chemainus. Since then she’s always been on the lookout for public art when travelling.
“Adding more art that people can see, adding things that people can do in this town that are free, that are accessible, that are for everybody, is so important,” she said. “So I think every year adding new pieces also encourages tourists, local and from far away, to keep coming back year after year. You’re from Vancouver? Don’t go to the States, don’t go to Europe, come to the Island. It’s right here and there’s something new to see.”