Graffiti leaves a mark on Fernie

A graffiti artist visited Fernie last weekend to demonstrate his ideas of what public art should be.

David Brunning works on a large canvas at The Arts Station as part of a workshop he taught on the weekend. Photo by M. Cole

A graffiti artist visited Fernie last weekend to demonstrate his ideas of what public art should be.

The Calgary artist, David Brunning, or “TheKidBelo,” came to Fernie to teach a workshop called Graffiti – Public Art: Personal Space, at The Arts Station.

“I was really a late bloomer when it came to getting in to graffiti art. When I first picked up a can to paint I was 19 years old,” he said. “But I had been drawing what I thought was graffiti, my idea of what graffiti was, for two years before that.”

As a kid in Edmonton, he became involved in skateboarding and snowboarding, which got him interested in the hip-hop culture.

“I was rapping and freestyling, and living a different kind of life. I didn’t make the best choices growing up, I got involved with stupid stuff, and luckily I got out of it at the same time I got into graffiti, which was smart, it kind of saved me,” he said.

It was the images of subway graffiti art in the back pages of Source Magazine that got Brunning interested in graffiti.

His artistic style has changed a lot since his first piece, which he has integrated into a design for a t-shirt he made for The Arts Station.

“My style is really clean. I’ve always been into being really clean and precise. And even when I didn’t paint well I wanted to be clean,” he said, “The letters didn’t look good back then, they looked OK, but they look a lot better now. Now I’m just breaking boundaries.”

He said that he adds more colour to his work now, plays with dimension and also experiments with letterform.

Like all art, Brunning acknowledges that there is good and bad graffiti art.

“A lot of people’s ideas of graffiti art are just negative. They don’t understand it and then when they see it on their fence, it’s just really crappy, chicken scratches on the side of a building. It just doesn’t fit,” he said.

“Fernie is interesting. I drove in here and I’m looking around and I see all of these old buildings. I thought ‘OK, this is a quaint, neat town,’ and then I’m looking at the graffiti and I’m thinking, ‘You’re kidding me. This doesn’t fit,’” said Brunning.

On January 3, The Arts Station put out a call for entry for it’s public art program.

“We’re looking for submissions for two pieces of public art. One is valued at $13,000 and the other is valued at $3,500,” said Oz Parsons, The Arts Station administrator.

Parsons said that the $3,500 piece is intended to be a collaborative piece involving schools and service organizations, with the goal of making it a group event.

“The thing with public art is that you won’t please everyone,” said Brunning. “In a small town like Fernie, you need to know what the community likes. You may need to have something that’s a landscape, something that’s an abstract, something that’s graffiti.

“There should be a vibrancy. Just get artists that are talented and that know what they are doing. If I was the town of Fernie I would find a way, through the B.C. government or through private people, to start funding and bringing in international and national artists to doing amazing artwork. This town needs it.”

The artwork done by the participants of the workshop will be on display as part of an exhibit opening on January 27 at 7 p.m. Each of the eight students had the opportunity to create a painting of a letter of the word graffiti.

The exhibit will also showcase a video shot by one of the participants during a trip to Europe, which features some of the graffiti he and his wife saw on the trip.

TheKidBelo has also donated a painting, which will be on display in the exhibit.

The deadline for the public art program’s call for entry is February 25. For more information contact The Arts Station at 250-423-4842.