A former Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Walmart is now the canvas for one of Canada’s largest mural projects.
When the big box retailer closed the doors of their Edgeley Boulevard location in Vaughan -- opting for a prime location across the street instead -- it didn’t take long for the vacant building to become a vibrant work of art.
SmartCentres REIT partnered with Montreal-based ad agency LNDMRK -- who has run the popular international street art festival MURAL Fest since 2013 -- to create ArtWalk, a series of eye-catching murals throughout the building’s exterior. The coveted real estate is part of the ongoing transformation of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre neighbourhood, with the addition and evolution of the SmartVMC, a 100-acre city centre.
Celebrated for launching the careers of numerous artists, LNDMRK was hired to curate a mix of acclaimed and emerging artists for the building’s revamp. The muralists include Madrid artist Ricardo Cavolo, marking his first project in the GTA; Montreal-based street artist Jeremy Shantz; and revered, local Toronto artists birdO and Ben Johnston.
"Each of the four artists are responsible for one side of the building,” said Arman Afkhami, director of sales and strategy at LNDMRK. “They each brought their own identity and style to create colourful, playful, and bold pieces.”
Unlike many public art initiatives, we can expect this one to stick around awhile.
“ArtWalk will live on-site for the next three years, as the SmartVMC continues to transform into a world-class master-planned community,” said Afkhami. “Though this is an evolving site, arts and culture critically bring heart and life to urban spaces.”
For the time being, these bold artistic murals are the backdrop for the summer long ArtWalk drive-in movies. "These ArtWalk activations infuse energy and culture into the new city centre, setting the tone for the art district’s future mixed-use condominiums, vibrant commercial offerings, open green space, and public amenities," reads the SmartVMC website.
Afkhami says we’ll see a lot more initiatives like the transformed former Walmart building – especially in the surrounding community. “The SmartVMC project will continue to inject arts and culture into its project,” says Afkhami. “I can't share more details about what's to come but there will be more exciting stuff announced soon!"
Finally, it seems the GTA has started to embrace the role of art unexpected spaces; everywhere from vacant buildings to construction sites. While it may have gone unnoticed to some in the daily grind, as of 2014, Toronto construction sites are legally required to lend 50% of their construction hoarding to community art if the hoarding is on any part of the public right of way.
And we're not complaining. Decking out vacant buildings and construction sites in the form of public art not only adds value for Toronto residents in terms of visual stimulation (a consolation for often maddening construction), it also offers exposure for Canada's talented artists -- especially when their work aptly makes its rounds on social media.