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Fresh canvas

Legal street art wall on St. John’s campus to create sense of place

Campus and Community

By Mandy Cook

Between Macpherson College and the Memorial Childcare Centre is a large block wall.

A large brick wall with trees and a walkway in front on a sunny day with blue sky.
The legal street art wall is located on the St. John’s campus between Macpherson College and the Childcare Centre and faces Burton’s Pond.
Photo: Submitted

Measuring 10 feet high and 60 feet long, the wall is substantial – and is just the spot to let street artists unleash their creativity.

The Memorial legal street art wall is a pilot project on the St. John’s campus, as part of the work of Memorial’s Beautification Committee.

The official launch of the street art wall is Friday, May 27, from 1-2 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Matthew Hills wears a blue collared shirt.
Matthew Hills
Photo: Lori Lee Pike

“It’s exciting to be launching a broadly accessible forum for free artistic expression on St. John’s campus,” said Matthew Hills, gallery director and curator, Memorial University art collection and Grenfell Art Gallery.

“The legal street art wall pilot creates a new safe space at our university for the creativity of artists across a spectrum of experiences and abilities.”

There are two aspects to the initiative. One, the wall is open to all artists of all skill levels who wish to use it, seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. Murals, street art tagging and painting are allowed. Artists are responsible for supplying and properly disposing of their materials.

The wall is essentially self-regulated and managed by the community; paintings on the wall may be painted over by other users. (Users are asked to be respectful of their fellow artists and share the wall, and, ideally, allow for diverse content.)

Two, complementing this public street art, twice a year an artist will be commissioned to create a mural on the wall. Artist proposals will consider the historical significance of Memorial, the St. John’s campus community and its contemporary and emerging contexts.

Art must be original. Artists will be commissioned by an independent 3–5 member selection committee with a connection to the community and Memorial, as well as artistic expertise and cultural knowledge. The Paint Shop is generously supporting the initiative.

“Much of the excitement generated by street art is the dynamic and unexpected nature of the work or painting.” — Matthew Hills

Over the last two months a public call for mural proposals was made; the deadline for submission is May 15, with full details on how to submit included in the call. For more information, please visit the Grenfell Art Gallery’s website. Information regarding the second call for submissions in 2022 will be shared when it becomes available.

Mr. Hills says that campus is an “exciting place to be”, filled with new ideas and unlimited potential, and the mural aspect of the wall allows for artists to formally contribute in a public and professional context.

“Much of the excitement generated by street art is the dynamic and unexpected nature of the work or painting, which can be fleeting, contributing to a sense of FOMO [fear of missing out] associated with this space,” he said.

“As the university’s gallery, we are committed to cultivating a diversity of artistic excellence in our province and the mural commissions, in combination with the legal street art wall initiative, provide a unique opportunity to achieve this in support of campus beautification.”

An overhead view of a wall by a pond that indicated the measurements (10 feet by 60 feet).
A bird’s-eye view of the wall, as well as a second, smaller wall that is also part of the project.
Photo: Submitted

The overall aim is for the wall to contribute to stimulating the public realm; beautify and enrich the experience of students, staff, faculty and visitors on the St. John’s campus; create an opportunity for mural commissions that reflect the past, present, and future vision of Memorial University; support artistic expression and stimulate innovation on the St. John’s campus; and to build local, extra-regional and provincial artistic capacity.

The establishment of the street art wall encourages use of the wall for street art, murals and art of many forms. Memorial is committed to supporting a proactive and co-operative approach to managing vandalism in the public realm that prioritizes campus as a safe space while still supporting artists and street art that adds vibrancy to campus. If you witness unsanctioned/illegal/inappropriate material on another surface that is not the street art wall or material that is discriminatory or harassing of a person or group and wish to make a report, please contact Campus Enforcement and Patrol.

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