Street art back against the wall

Union Gallery

ON THE WALL Festival Returns to Revitalize Kingston Park

Street artists approached the festival with an array of styles.

On Monday, the ON THE WALL: Street Art Festival brought together artists of all different mediums and demographics to repaint the murals of Douglas Fluhrer Park.

Throughout the five-day festival, artists ranging from a solo artist taking a contemporary graffiti-based approach, to a group of hand-painters tackling their landscape mural together, the diversity of perspectives and artists was displayed along the beautiful inner-harbour park. 

The goal of the street festival is to display street art in a productive light, rather than the negative connotations that often surround it. The festival provides a space for artists to work without constraints and  allows the community to come and watch them complete their work from start to finish.

In 2014, The Water Access Group teamed up with the Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour to bring the festival to the retaining wall of Douglas Fluhrer Park. As it was already covered in various forms of graffiti and murals, it was an ideal location to further promote the benefits of street and public art within the community. City Council voted unanimously to support the festival because it reflected the city’s Culture Plan and Art in Public Places policy.

Steve Manders and his art at Douglas Fuher Park. Photo by Stephanie Nihjuis

In its inaugural year, the festival won the Kingstonist award for its liveliness and being the most exciting new arts event of the year.

Steve Manders, a local explorer and photographer, took a unique approach to painting his mural on Monday. Some decided to work freestyle, but there was a mathematic approach to his work.

“This is a bit like drafting, I used my computer and some other photographs, made my composition and then gridded it, then I made a great big grid on the wall. So now it becomes a paint by numbers,” he explained.

Manders’ work, although during the interview still a few strokes away from completion, sparked an intrigue in the history of Kingston. The mural details the local history of the K&P railway, depicting one of the stations alongside a historic train, against a colourful sunset.

Since his retirement, Manders has been exploring and searching for the old and undiscovered train stations and railways along the K&P Railway system. Much of the history of the railway system has been lost, but Manders has since found 62 Railways, 75 original surviving stations and over 300 bridges. 

In bringing his discoveries to light by integrating them within his art, Manders contributes to the revival of the history of Kingston and extended parts of Ontario.

Street art often has the reputation of being something done solely in secret and in the dark, where artists hide their identity to avoid consequences. During the ON THE WALL festival, artists have the chance to tell their stories and interact with the community, altering this common perception. Without this aspect, Manders wouldn’t have had a platform to share the history of the K&P Railway with this new part of the community.

Other murals along the wall featured Canadian landscapes, Indigenous art and various images of animals and people. This variety provided different perspectives to the ideals that create the mosaic of street art, and both the past and present diversity of the Kingston community.

Furthermore, the variety of artistic approaches solidified this cultural and artistic diversity. Manders took a drafting approach, working with grids and using traditional paint brushes while other artwork featured a mixture of approaches including spray cans and paint rollers.

 

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