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Don't mess with a soprano  

Art hiding in plain sight

Most artists strive to have their art hung in a gallery or bought by a patron.

But there are artists with much bigger visions. They are muralists, artists who use walls or ceilings as their canvas.

I remember being awed when I saw mural art from 100 BC-79 AD in Pompeii, Italy,. The colours were slightly faded, but the clothing and style of the time was very clear.

The oldest known mural is from the Chauvet Pont-d’Art cave in France, Paleolithic paintings that are 30,000-33,000 years old.

In other words, people have been painting on outside and inside walls for a very long time.

Frescos have endured since the Bronze age. A fresco is painted on a wet limestone wall, or ceiling, using dry pigments mixed with water. The painting becomes part of the wall.

The Sistine Chapel at the Vatican is an example of this type of mural.

My favourite type of mural is the Trompe-l’oeil. The Trompe-l’oeil technique, which means trick of the eye, goes back to Greek and Roman times. The best architectural example is in the Jesuit Church in Vienna.

Artist Andrea Pozzo created the illusion that the dome is curved when it isn’t.

I love the three-dimensional effects artists create on a flat surface.

Mexican artists Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Siqueiros used murals in a new way to promote social and political changes during the 1920s to 1950s.

Photographers Ed and Cheryl J. Bramble told me about the Kelowna mural scene, and sent me a list of 65 murals. I had no idea there were so many.

The City of Kelowna, the Kelowna Art Gallery, businesses, neighbourhood programs, and schools have been supporting muralists since the early 2000s.

The oldest mural I found was at the OK Corral on Kirschner Road dating from 1985. Unfortunately, the bar is a COVID victim.

COVID has given some artists time and there are now 10 new murals from 2020. You will find most of these in the Rutland area due to an active Rutland Business Association (URBA).

Muralists who have helped shape the Kelowna mural scene are:

David Doody – teaches a new mural fine arts class at UBCO

  • Seunos — the great magician. David created this mural with Jeremy Shantz in 2019 at 158 Valleyview Road
  • Lifted — with Jeremy Shantz and Jorden Doody – 2019, 433 Highway 33
  • Youth Mural — collaboration with UBCO students and CTQ Consulting in 2020, 1334 St. Paul St.
  • Salmon Mural — with UBCO students as part of a new course he teaches at UBCO, 2020, 1334 St. Paul Street

Bruno Smoky

This Brazilian muralist, who often works with his wife, Shalak Attack, has great colour and depth to his murals.

  • Hotel Zed — 2016, 1627 Abbott St.
  • Face Behind Sapphire Night Club — 248 Leon Ave.
  • Man with Birds — 2018, 529 Lawrence Ave.

Lars Widel is a stone builder who finds time for painting especially using aerosol paint.

  • Mermaid Mural — 2015, 505 Sutherland Ave.
  • Aerosol Mural — 2006, Duggan Park, 1494 Bernard Ave.
  • Convenience Store Mural — 2011, 885 Rutland Road N

Some businesses have partnered with artists to support the arts and city.

  • Fripp Warehousing commissioned a mural to commemorate Kelowna's history. It depicts a walk-through of Kelowna’s history using the four seasons as a theme.
  • Eric Blais, an Okanagan artist, designed and painted it with some help from the Kelowna Minor Hockey League
  • CTQ Consultants-Engineering, Planning, and Urban Design have released a GIS Mural Map pinpointing all 65 mural locations.

This was spearheaded by Dianne Grey after they did a collaborative project in 2020 with UBCO. This resulted in the Salmon Mural facing CTQ’S parking lot.

Local schools have been active in creating murals.

  • Reach For The Stars Mural —Spring Valley Middle School provided ideas and designs for Scott Tobin. He incorporated them into his final design in 2007 at 355 Spedding Cres.
  • Wonder Full — Rutland Senior students with Jorden Doody, 2009, Rutland Lions Park
  • Rutland Baseball Mural — Rutland Middle School students, 2001, Edith Gay Park

I can’t wait to invite my bubble buddies to an exciting walking trip around these sights.

There are so many murals I have yet to discover:

  • Mysterious Castle and Wolf
  • indigenous art at the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society
  • Graffiti Art Mural done by tattoo artists
  • Spitlam Sisters Mural
  • Lonesome Dove

Oh, I can’t wait. I figure there are at least three to four great hikes needed to see all these murals and different artist’s work.

After this long winter, it’s great to be able to meander through new neighbourhoods and discover a coffee shop I’ve never been to.

I challenge you to dust off your sneakers, enlist get a map, and discover the artists hiding in plain sight.

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About the Author

Sue Skinner is a singer of opera and musical theatre, a choral conductor and a teacher/coach of voice. 

She has travelled the world, learned many languages, seen every little town in Alberta and supported herself with music all her life.

She has sung at weddings, funerals, musicals, operettas, opera, with symphonies, guitars, jazz groups, rock bands and at play schools. 

Skinner has taken two choirs to Carnegie Hall, sung around the world, and teaches for Wentworth Music on Zoom.

[email protected]



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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