Mural festival plans to change Hamilton’s ‘visual landscape’

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Mural festival plans to change Hamilton’s ‘visual landscape’

Concrete Canvas Fest is a citywide mural festival, and organizers Leon “Eklipz” Robinson and Scott McDonald say this year’s event will change the appearance of nearly 25 buildings across the city.

“The whole idea is to change the visual landscape,” MacDonald said. “You can really change the atmosphere of a neighborhood…just walk by and see the colors, not just the drab walls.”

The festival will be held across the city from July 18th to 24th.

Robinson said this year’s Concrete Canvas Festival will be the biggest they’ve ever held and will feature artists from around the world.

“We have people from London, we have people from Miami, we have people from Havana, Montreal, Hamilton, Toronto,” he said.

Discover Hamilton through art

Robinson and MacDonald ran the first concrete canvas in 1994.

It was originally created as a way for the duo to share hip-hop culture with the public through a festival celebrating graffiti art, breakdancing and hip-hop.

The original Concrete Canvas Festival ended in 2002 and resumed in 2019 before the pandemic put the event on hold.

The crow was one of two iconic concrete canvas festival murals from the previous festival before Covid. (Carla Nixon)

This year, Robinsons and McDonald’s are expanding outward from the city center. There are also some mural sites on the mountain this year, Robinson said.

MacDonald said he wanted the festival to spread across the city so festival-goers could “explore…undiscovered areas of Hamilton”.

The hyper-realistic Hess Street “Butterfly” mural from Concrete Canvas 2019 is Robinson’s favorite. (Carla Nixon)

MacDonald said the festival aims to help people discover Hamilton’s arts scene.

“I’m… celebrating a group of Hamilton artists who are monsters on the world stage but not recognized in the city,” he said.

One of those hidden talents was Scott Martin, whose name was Burnt Toast. He is a well-known digital artist, former Facebook chief designer and most recently collaborating with singer Pharrell Williams.

McDonald’s and Martin are teaming up to paint a 20-storey mural for the holiday season.

“He’s the biggest artist in Canada, he’s from Hamilton, and nobody knows who he is,” MacDonald said.

Expose paint by number

The festival is still weeks away, but MacDonald is already working on his first work: an interactive “paint by numbers” mural of the Peregrine Falcon at the Sheraton Hotel.

The mural will contain a QR code that links to a website where you can use your phone’s camera to draw the mural yourself and submit it to Concrete Canvas.

Passersby can use a QR code to paint Scott McDonald’s Peregrine Falcon mural in the York Blvd parking lot. (Carla Nixon)

McDonald’s will be projecting submissions onto the mural over the last weekend of the festival. People can vote for their favorite work, and McDonald’s will fill in the mural with the winner.

“I just thought it was really an unprecedented experience,” MacDonald said.

The falcon mural isn’t the only interactive part of the festival. A second “law wall” will be installed in Woodland Park during the event. A legal wall is a blank wall designed to allow beginner graffiti artists to practice their art legally.

bring music

The festival will culminate in a two-day hip-hop concert in Woodland Park, bringing together artists from across the Golden Horseshoe region.

Robinson recently announced the festival’s secret headliner, with hip-hop legend Masta Ace set to perform alongside Toronto-based producer Marco Polo.

Concerts are free to the public.

“We want people to come out, you know, families to come out and enjoy it,” Robinson said. “It’s a big open area. There’s going to be music, there’s going to be resonance, there’s going to be entertainment for people.”

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