Pelletier: ‘public art has the power to change a community’

By Kallie Berens

In the nearing zero temperatures, local artists Andrew Knapp, “Co- Bubble Blower” and Christian Pelletier, “Co-Cheerleader” of the We Live Up Here project, have completed their fourth mural within the city.

From July 28, 2013 to September 15, 2013, a fundraiser for the project on Indiegogo surpassed their goal of $5,000 in an impressive amount of time. By the time Sept. 15 rolled around, the project raised $8,816.

The four murals include the colourful “You Are Beautiful” wall on Durham Street underneath The Speakeasy, Sudburians at the Market located at the Farmer’s Market downtown, A vintage stock racer car with “What’s The Rush?” following behind it on the Kingsway, and their latest, Déjà Vu, displays the eyes of former workers at St. Joseph’s Hospital on Ste-Anne road downtown.

Each mural has a different message, but all of them are contributing to the main goal of “engaging the community,” Pelletier said.

“I wanted something nice to look at when I was stumbling home from The Townehouse,” he joked. “Honestly though, I was tired of complaining about the way Sudbury was… and I think that public art has the power to change a community.”

Sudbury’s by-laws regarding public art explain the city’s stance on the topic – as long as it pushes community identity and builds on the idea of cultural character and heritage, and once you get past the “red tape,” as Knapp explained, you then can get creative.

Knapp says that “good” public art can be interpreted in a venn diagram of sorts. “One of the circles is aesthetics, one is message, and one is location,” he explained. “When those three things meet, subjectively.

It’s a celebration of what you believe in – something honest, sincere and meaningful.”

Pelletier says that “good” public art to him “needs to be provocative and stir a collective mind, to get people thinking. For other people, that may just mean for it to be pretty, which is just as valuable. It has to be art for the greater good of society.”

Pelletier continued about public art: “People won’t talk about a grey wall. But they’ll talk about something that has art on it. No one was talking about these walls before the art was there – it engages the community.”

When the new Hot 93.5 FM posted a picture of the Kingsway mural on Facebook, some people wrote that it is “distracting,” and predicts that it is “going to cause some accidents,” which brought others to defend the mural and remind Facebook users of basic driving principles.

When asked about the distraction factor of the murals, Knapp said “If you do anything loud, you’re going to get people to cheer you on and oppose you. If that’s a distraction, then that loud LED display on the Kingsway is an Atom Bomb. If that’s a distraction, then the blue balls hanging from the truck in front of you is one as well. Is it distracting? Well, just shut the fuck up.”

Pelletier laughed at the same question. “I think it’s funny. The whole point of that [mural] is to start a conversation of the way we move, and so if there’s a controversy it just means that people are talking about it, which means mission accomplished. So be it.”

With the introduction of a new public art policy coming soon to the city, Knapp and Pelletier are “eyeballing” new potential walls around the city and spending the winter to plan, along with working on their second “We Live Up Here” book, “taking their time” to come up with something “really awesome.”

Said Knapp: “Expect to see us next summer getting more in your face. We’re going to start having even more fun with it – and now that we have the trust, now we can play.”