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'untitled' kirsten mccrea mural at up here

How UP Here Festival Transformed Sudbury

In August 2016, Up Here made a comeback to Sudbury, Canada with the aim of rebranding the city. The pollution-stricken downtown city of Canada had long been the centre of criticism from outsiders and Up Here was out to refine that notion. A city formerly nicknamed ‘the asshole of Canada’ by the locals was set to become the happiest city in Canada.

Up Here landed in Sudbury already rebranded after their original name, Up Fest was found to infringe on another street art festival from the UK. That was a blow to their Sudbury’s festival event which was much about muralists, musicians and artists, but they still nailed it. To add the icing on the cake, Up Here even launched a mobile app thanks to their shrewd graphic designers and marketers Andrew Knapp and Christian Pelletier.

"you are beautiful" mural from sudbury's up here festival

There were about 16 Up Here’s commissioned murals which were part of the plan of transforming Sudbury and change the perception of the city. Pelletier’s ambition was to make Sudbury a destination for art enthusiasts by turning the city’s downtown to an urban art gallery. The plan involved inviting artists from around Sudbury and across the world to create big murals.

2016’s event rocked with big stage artists, with the likes of Ella and Pitr, Kirsten McCrea, Ola Volo, James Kirkpatrick and Hobz leaving marks of jaw-dropping murals.

'god helmet' mural on Science North building rooftop

The mural at the Science North rooftop is especially breathtaking. Done by French artists Ella and Pitr’, the piece is of great significance to Sudbury as it put the city on the international stage. The mural features a sleeping giant and it’s visible via Google maps. Many people from around the world hunt for Ella and Pitr’s murals all over the internet trying to find the different pieces in Chile and Portugal. And now Sudbury was added into the game. That’s why it matters to the people of this city.

'untitled' mural by kirsten mccrea at up here festival in sudbury

 

The musical offerings at last year’s fest put the focus on female-fronted bands with U.S Girls, Young Galaxy, Dilly Dally and Stars making the headlines. Locals Neli Nenkova and Tracy Baker also made to the podium. People had tough decisions to make. Pelletier called the festival ‘dueling late nights’ which put two bands against each other at different venues. Some hip hop acts were also on the roster as Pelletier was of the idea of diversifying the program in all senses.

up here mural by krueger krew

He also didn’t forget about the fun and creativity for kids. They organized a family day and kids from within Sudbury had a blast of 2016. Kids did face-painting on adults as well as painting mini-murals on cardboards. The organizers believed there’s no better way of gentrifying the city than getting everyone engaged and celebrating the move together.

whos going to take the weight mural from up here mural festival in sudbury

By the time the fest was over, Sudbury was lit by life-worthy elements. It looked renovated with beauty oozing from all corners of the city. Pelletier said last year’s theme was based on terraformation, which according to him is making an inhabitable space livable. They are proud of that achievement.

ella pitr wall mural

Artist Bio: Ella & Pitr

Great art can often come from great collaboration. The Wachowskis, The Russo Brothers, The Coen Brothers, and many other great team-ups have changed movies, and the same is true within the art world. Street art is almost always collaborative in some regards, too. Even as we spotlight individual artists, many projects are the result of minds coming together to create something better than what could be thought of individually. And while some artists have made their way on their own, and have made their distinct stamp on the world of street art, many others have done so by working together and, in the spirit of collaboration, created something otherwise impossible.

This sentiment is true with Ella & Pitr, two French artists whose work is the very definition of the collaborative spirit. The two rose to prominence in the mid-2000s in Paris, a city with a vibrant and wonderful street art community. To make their mark, the two created pieces that rely on multiple people working together in two major ways, and one of the most noticeable expressions of this is their Sleeping Giants series.

ella-pitr2

Painted around the world, Sleeping Giants is a series of extremely large murals of people lying down together. The pieces vary in their sentiment and purpose, but most use muted colours and simple shapes, an approach that makes these extraordinary pieces wonderfully ordinary, which highlights a certain beauty in a very mundane activity: sleeping.

Ella & Pitr, Lillith and Olaf, for the Nuart Festival

Ella & Pitr, Lillith and Olaf, for the Nuart Festival

The Sleeping Giants pieces gained international fame when the duo set out to create Norway’s largest mural. Called “Lillith & Olaf,” the piece features a person crouched and sleeping, with a colourful king figurine off to the side. But while the piece itself, in its construction and perspective, is beautiful, the reason it made headlines is the size. At over 225,000 square feet, the piece is easily the largest mural ever made in Norway, and it took the world by storm when it debuted in the fall of 2015.

ella-pitr3

Ella & Pitr have made a number of murals, both in the Sleeping Giants series and in other exploits that, while not quite as big, are still interesting and interactive pieces. Many of their murals play with the idea of optical illusion and perspective, and people are constantly playing around while photographing themselves in the pieces. Such an effort to interact with street art is not uncommon, but people having fun with a piece in their own way is one of many signs that a piece of street art has done its job, captured people’s attention, and created an opportunity to turn the piece into something more.

The collaborative spirit of Ella & Pitr is a great reminder of how much street art relies on groups of people over singular artists. And while many street artists have deservedly made names for themselves, it’s important to remember that people, not a single person, are integral to art. Not just because every artist needs an audience, but because great things can happen when we work together.