- Category: news
- Created: Thursday, 12 September 2013 14:48
- Published: Thursday, 12 September 2013 14:48
- Written by Administrator 3
- Hits: 659
Adrian Chamberlain / Times Colonist
What: Victoria International Chalk Art Festival
Where: Government Street, Centennial Square, The Bay Centre (lower level)
When: Saturday, Sunday
Being told to tone down the social message of his artwork at the Victoria International Chalk Art Festival didn’t exactly thrill Dutch artist Leon Keer.
Nonetheless, the Utrecht-based surrealist believes he’ll still be able to create a three-dimensional artwork at the Bay Centre that brings attention to challenges faced by First Nations people in Canada.
Keer, a well-known artist who participates in street-art festivals around the world, has started work on a 20-by-20-foot chalk painting on the floor of the Bay Centre’s lower level. When finished, it’ll feature a Monopoly board around the rim, with images of trees, mountains and other British Columbia scenery inside. A factory-style smokestack will appear to arise from the centre.
The 40-something artist said he originally submitted sketches for a more politically charged artwork. It was to have had pipelines running through it — a reflection of news reports Keer read about First Nations’ opposition to the Northern Gateway oil pipeline in B.C. As well, the artist had envisioned the Monopoly game properties would be named after First Nations bands.
After festival organizers conferred with the Bay Centre’s management, Keer was told to make his political message “more subtle.”
“I think the sketches were seen by too many people and everybody wanted to have a go at it. And that kills creativity,” he said in an interview. Nonetheless, the artist said he believes the juxtaposition of a Monopoly board with First Nations habitat will get his message across.
On Wednesday, festival organizer John Vickers said the festival’s decision had since been modified. Keer will now be allowed to name Monopoly game properties after First Nations bands.
The oil pipeline still will not be a part of the painting. However, Vickers said that was a fleeting notion raised and discarded early on.
“The pipeline, that was way back earlier when we were throwing around what was going to be on the drawing,” he said. “They’re now giving him all the artistic licence he wants.”
Keer is one of up to 40 chalk artists expected at the festival, running Saturday and Sunday in downtown Victoria. Other artists include Lori Escalara (California), Jonas Mitchell (Utah), Steve Platt (Washington), Michael Las Casas (Florida), Jeanie Burns (Florida) and Jo Lalonde (Toronto). Victoria chalk artists such as Jamin Zuroski and Ian Morris will also take part.
The festival also coincides with the appearance of renowned pavement artist Kurt Wenner. Wenner, considered a pioneer in the field of three-dimensional street art, will visit Munro’s Books from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday for a book-signing.
This year’s Victoria International Chalk Art Festival has a First Nations theme. Vickers said artists were given the option of using First Nations imagery, with some B.C. aboriginal artists granting permission for their artworks to be reproduced. As well as artists such as Zuroski, who is of Namgis First Nation descent, there will be performances at Centennial Square by the Iskwew Singers and other aboriginal singers, dancers and drummers.
Vickers expects attendance will top the estimated 15,000 who saw last year’s chalk art festival. The festival, in its second year, operates on a $50,000-plus budget. As well as government funding, it’s supported by corporate sponsors, Tourism Victoria and Victoria hotels, which donated 130 free nights to artists.
Government Street will be closed to vehicles from Fort Street to Yates Street to allow pedestrians unencumbered access to chalk artists working along the block.
In the event of rain, Vickers said the festival is — or will be — literally covered. He has obtained a roll of plastic measuring 20 by 200 feet to cover artworks from showers.
“You roll it down the whole street like a carpet,” he said. “It’s for protecting drywall or something.”
Keer, meanwhile, said he looks forward to chatting with the public while he creates.
“I like the social aspect. Otherwise, you’re sitting alone in your studio making art and you don’t get any comments.”