In early March, daniel j kirk and I were contacted by a couple of art enthusiasts, Marnie Temple and Jim Wallis of Tilted Brick Gallery and Empire of Dirt residency in Creston, BC. They asked us to create a mural that would revive an abandoned building that had become an “eyesore” to many Creston residents. The challenge would be painting a 200 ft wall (imagine a city block) in three days. Originally, the concrete foundation was meant to become a seniors’ home, unfortunately development never came to fruition and the foundation was left as-is for the last 12 years. As you can see in the photos below, the building didn’t change much over the years, except for the continual growth of grasses at its base. It was our job to transform this “eyesore” landmark, infamously dubbed the “bunker”, into something Creston residents would be proud of.
We pitched a simple design that we knew we could complete in three days and would cover this massive concrete canvas. We began looking into the history of Creston, and found that before the “taming” of the Kootenay River with dykes and dams, the land flooded annually, creating a lush wetland environment. The Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area gives us a glimpse of what the land may have looked like many years ago with its lush grasses and water plants. With a deep understanding of the marshlands, Ktunaxa and Yaqan Nukiy, original peoples of this territory, created Sturgeon-nosed canoes to traverse through the water and grasses of the valley. Our design acknowledges the original landscape and people with a shape that loosely represents the innovative sturgeon canoe travelling through the grasses.
In early August, we set off to Creston to create what we would later title The Grasses. We were graciously hosted by Marnie and Jim at the Empire of Dirt residency, where they have built a bundle of artist studios on Arrow mountain. Early mornings provided the workable conditions to escape the heat, as the wall itself served as shade during the morning sunrise. When the sun began to bake us nearing mid-day, we’d cool off in the Kootenay River. Since the mural is along the highway and a main thoroughfare through the city, we received many comments, honks and thumbs ups from passers-by. It was rare to have a negative opinion, and many people were neutral about the work being done often touting that it was “better than nothing!”. We did have many positive responses from folks who enjoyed the changes that we were making. During our painting, one of the ladies from the seniors home around the corner was so pleased she offered me 20 dollars for the work. I respectfully declined!
We specifically simplified the design to adapt to the large surface area. Simplicity allowed daniel and I to go into the depth of the grasses; each pass being a new exploration of colour as we moved back and forth across our canvas, responding to each other’s moves. We played with how the colours interacted with each other, and how the grasses entwined. What we were left with was a cascade of dynamic mark making, giving life to each blade of grass. As the mural lives on, we can only imagine how the grasses will grow up and around it, creating another level of connection to this landscape and history.
SPECIAL THANKS TO
Marnie Temple and Jim Wallis at Tilted Brick Gallery and Empire of Dirt
Cat at Pyramid Building Supplies for supplying the paint to make this project happen