A Splash of Urban Colour, Graffiti Art and Murals

Fantastic murals magically manifest themselves, further adding to the exciting mix for a diverse urban adventure.

Thunder Bay boasts a number of large wonderful exterior murals, painted on walls of buildings, that are sure to intrique visitors interested in contemporary art.

The murals, of which there are quite a few, fall into two categories: those created for a program funded by City of Thunder Bay in 2008, and those most recently created by the Die-Active Art Collective, part of the Defnitely Superior Art Gallery.

In fact, the Die-Active Art Collective has developed a Graffiti Art Tour.

Nearly 10 years ago, a grant program for the South Core produced five exterior murals with the theme “Tell Our Stories,” to encourage pride in the city’s history as part of a revitalization project. Former mayor Lynn Peterson implemented this initiative as part of the city’s Clean, Green and Beautiful movement, which has continued support from our current mayor, Keith Hobbs.

For the city, artist Chris Rantala worked on two murals, one at 119 May St featuring a large mural of a historical streetscape, and the other with Brian Cronk. Together they created a scene of Metis canoeists at 226 May St. South.

Joshua and Damon Dowbak painted up their Kleewyck Stained Glass studio at 400 George Street with a triangular pattern containing a few figurative works.

Roy Thomas reproduced a popular image that is famous in Thunder Bay of a symbolic First Nations canoe, with characters representing people of all nations on the wall of the Shelter House at 400 George St.

Brian Nieminan painted a large historical streetscape scene on the Music World  building at the corner of 443 Simpson St. (corner of Simpson and Ogden) visible across the expanse of the East End Veggie Garden Project.

Many seemingly spontaneous mural creations around town in Thunder Bay, and on a few train cars somewhere in Canada, are actually the end products of young people learning to organize, plan, and ultimately set free their imagination. The Die-Active Art Collective is made up of young people aged 14 to 30. With Lora Northway as the head of this outreach program, created eight years ago by the Definitely Superior Art Gallery, over 600 young people have contributed to Die-Active activities over the years.

One of their mandates is to exploit opportunities to beautify the city, using walls found on prominent public institutions or the dull back walls of retail and industrial sites, perfect areas for graffiti-styled explosions of colour.

When you gaze at the strip of explosive graffiti murals along the backsides of shops and eateries on Cooke Streeet, you can almost hear the young artists hollering in joy as they painted away.

Where are all these murals located? Well, the Die-Active Art Collective has made it easy with a map of the murals on a map posted on their Facebook page.

The murals featured in this article are only some of the many found throughout the city. As some begin to fade, other fantastic murals magically manifest themselves, further adding to the exciting mix.

If you take the time to tour around Thunder Bay’s two city cores of the former cities of Port Arthur and Fort William,  you can add to an every growing and diverse urban adventure on your next visit to Thunder Bay.

About Duncan Weller

A writer and visual artist, Duncan Weller is a Governor General's Award winner who lives in Thunder Bay. You can visit his website at www.duncanweller.com. His latest two books are a novel, Flight of the Silk, and an expanded edition of the award-winning children's picture book, The Boy from the Sun.

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