Sudbury is getting a fresh coat of colour this week, thanks to an eclectic band of visual artists collaborating on large-scale murals. These public art projects are part of the Up Here Urban Art and Music Festival, co-founded by Cambrian College grad Andrew Knapp who’s recruited many of the talented arts professors and alumni who are working on the murals. The festival takes place downtown from August 10 – 14, but onlookers are already noticing some colourful transformations around the city.
Along one of Sudbury’s busiest thoroughfares, a beautifully crafted mural is springing from grey concrete. Cambrian Graphic Design graduate Neli Nenkova is chiefly responsible. Her mural pumps public art into the daily grind of Sudbury’s Kingsway commuters and passers-by on this stop-and-go stretch.
Nenkova’s mural, Togetherness, features a golden profile of a woman with long hair flowing to (and from) some famous Sudbury landmarks. Tucked next to her, a darker male profile balances the woman’s brilliance. In a glance, it’s a blitz of beauty and romance, bright and dark. If you have a longer look, you’ll see Nenkova’s broader intent.
In a Facebook post, she explains:
Connecting the masculine and feminine of the two worlds, connecting nature and industry. Connecting light and darkness closes the circle of life reinforcing beauty, hope and love. This mural celebrates the togetherness in all aspects of life; the togetherness that surmounts all perils, all hurdles and all obstacles of our northern harsh, but beautiful, winters; the togetherness that makes living Up Here worthwhile.
Consistent with its theme, Togetherness is a work of physical and metaphorical layers, painted with care by Nenkova and a cadre of committed friends and volunteers, including fellow Cambrian arts alumni.
While Nenkova painted street-side, about 3.5 kms away, on a rooftop next to Ramsey Lake, two world-renowned street artists from France, Ella + Pitr, worked on a large-scale mural atop the Science North IMAX® theatre, with help from muralist and Cambrian College professor, Johanna Westby.
Westby teaches in the College’s Art and Design Fundamentals, Design and Visual Arts, and Graphic Design programs. In 2015, she was a featured muralist in the Festival, known then as Up Fest.
In 2016, she and Knapp each won Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts Awards for their artistic and creative contributions to the City.
Westby has led teams of students and grads in public art projects that enhance the city, ranging from large-scale murals to snow sculptures. She’s part of a group of artists in Sudbury inspired by designer Bruce Mau, who aim to “reclaim and transform our city, our public spaces and even our perceptions by fostering a welcome terrain for strong artistic production and discourse.”
Another Cambrian grad and professor, Tracy Baker, also contributed to Up Here as a featured muralist, and as panelist in “Breathing Walls: How Urban Art Gives Life to Cities,” which took place on August 10 at Cambrian College’s downtown Open Studio. Once it's complete, Baker's mural can be enjoyed downtown in Memorial Park.