An Indigenous mural is being brought to life in Newton this week, and it’s the second on the same building in the span of a year.
Shades of purple, green and blue work to create an aurora-borealis-esque sky, with traditional Haida artwork and just a dash of graffiti-flavour weaved in.
Rolling mountains and trees grace the skyline, and running wolves take centre stage.
The artwork has been commissioned by the Newton BIA with the aim of creating a “festival alley” in the community.
BIA director Philip Aguirre said it’s about “giving life to dark corners of the community.”
Aguirre’s vision for the artwork takes inspiration from graffiti alleys being seen in Vancouver and other parts of the world.
“Activating space,” he mused of the project. “Providing an area that’s normally not used as an alley, where the garbage cans and grease traps from restaurants are, and sort of providing a space where the community can come to. Giving new life to an area. And doing that with art, doing that with colour, doing that with passion and community events.”
The BIA’s long-term vision for Newton Town Centre, he noted, is to create a cultural entertainment district, brought to life by “thousands of little project,” from the planting of tulips to murals to large events or even poetry readings in the park.
A duo of artists have been commissioned to paint this latest mural, to the tune of $9,000 in combined funding from the BIA and landlord Value Properties.
Danny Fernandez — the artist behind last May’s mural on the west side of the building on 72nd Avenue, just east of King George Boulevard — joined Indigenous artist Corey Bulpitt this week to create the latest mural on the east wall.
Standing in front of the partially completed mural on Tuesday, Bulpitt said the piece incorporates his traditional Haida-style designs with Fernandez’s realism.
“It’s kind of a good collab-o,” Bulpitt said, “because we bring different things to the table. Two different styles that mix well.”
Bulpitt said murals tend to bring a sense of community to neighbourhoods that are sometimes looked over.
“I’ve done some in the Downtown East Side, and those had a very powerful impact on the people there,” he elaborated. “Where they walk by and feel a sense of somebody caring about them, by putting artwork up.”
Fernandez agreed, noting the two artists both have roots in graffiti art.
“There’s always been this ongoing battle with graffiti art so it’s nice to have cities or areas that actually show respect to that and they realize it’s an art form,” Fernandez said. “So when people come through here and they enjoy, whether they’re taking a picture for Instagram or just themselves, it’s flattering. It’s nice to see that people are actually enjoying the space.”
Fernandez’s first Newton mural, painted in May, 2017, focused on the community’s past, present and future, with colourful elements including an old interurban train to the annual Vaisakhi parade, held nearby.
But the BIA isn’t stopping with this latest mural.
The alley is also going to get a “long graffiti wall” in May, said Aguirre.
“That’ll be a collaboration of six graffiti artists,” Aguirre noted. “It should be the first commissioned graffiti wall, at least in Surrey for sure. Graffiti is usually not paid for but these guys are cutting edge.”
Aguirre acknowledged older generations aren’t “going to hang out in an alley to go look at art,” so the projects are definitely done with a “youth vibe” in mind.
What has the response been since the first mural went up last year?
“It’s been great,” Aguirre said. “You know, people want to see things happening in their community. They’re not game changers, but all these little projects build up to something… they build up to positivity for the community. New optimism. And that’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to create a thriving town centre and we can do that by providing art, providing space for people to be in, a space for people to do their events, to do community engagement.”
In several years, with the introduction of light rail transit, Newton will be a wildly different place, he noted.
“Light rapid transit is really going to transform the Newton Town Centre,” said Aguirre. “It’s going to bring more density, bring more people to the area, more people who are living here and working here, and those people want just a little more depth to their community. They don’t just want a transit hub.”