Artists provide facelift to downtown Penticton alleys

Alleyways that maybe were once a dark or ominous place to wander in Penticton are now places to pause and take in beautiful works of art.

Reimagine Art festival  organizers from the Downtown Penticton Association Desiree Loewen (left) and Allison Markin (right) go through some of the art supplies that will be used to give downtown business walls a facelift this weekend.

Reimagine Art festival organizers from the Downtown Penticton Association Desiree Loewen (left) and Allison Markin (right) go through some of the art supplies that will be used to give downtown business walls a facelift this weekend.

Alleyways that maybe were once a dark or ominous place to wander in downtown Penticton are now places to stroll, pause and take in beautiful works of art.

This weekend marks the fourth Reimagine Art Festival hosted by the Downtown Penticton Association that allows artists a chance to reinvent what could be misconstrued as the seedier sides of the city.

“We are not working on prominent sides of buildings like many of the similar festivals in other communities. These are in the back alleys and unexpected places that you wouldn’t normally put art,” said Downtown Penticton Association president Barb Haynes. “The festival was created in response to a really substantial graffiti challenge that we were facing and I can honestly say we haven’t eradicated graffiti but we have affected it in a really positive light.”

The festival began in 2009 and brought an explosion of mural art into the downtown core. Starting Friday, artists will take to the alleyways to create one-of-a-kind murals, brightening the exterior walls with everything from night skies and landscapes to portraits and wine bottles. About 18 artists will be producing murals thanks to businesses who have sponsored the walls and the art supplies provided by the Downtown Penticton Association.

“I love this festival, it is one of my favourites because it’s so different and so out of the box. We have other communities over the years from all over Canada asking how we do this. We share our story and we’ve seen other similar festivals crop up in places like Toronto who did one about a year ago in back alleys as well,” said Haynes.

The public will be able to pick up a downtown guide and map at the Downtown Penticton Association booth at the Saturday market so they can wander around and see the art.

“People love the murals and appreciate being able to wander around and look in our back alleys, corners, cubby holes and all the unique places we have in Penticton,” said Haynes.

For artist Reasha Wolfe it allows her to also think out of the box and be able to express herself through art in a way she could never afford.

“You get to work on something big, the supplies are provided and there is prize money and that doesn’t occur everyday. I have never actually had a canvas as big as a wall because I can’t afford one that big,” said Wolfe. “It’s also different because it is a community event and you want to contribute art that feels good for everyone to look at. It is also exciting because your art stays on that wall and is seen by so many people.”

The Reimagine Art Festival takes artists out of their comfort zone, putting them on the street working in direct view of the public.

“You have to be prepared for the public coming up and wanting to chat about what you are doing so you have to get over any self-consciousness. For me that is probably the toughest. I actually got my idea for the mural this year when I was participating last year and a passerby gave me the idea,” said Wolfe. “This festival not only makes the downtown look nicer, but shows off the diverse local talent we have. I have also noticed in the past few years that the alleyways are less scary because there are people down there appreciating the art.”

Artists will finish their creations at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Judging will take place in three categories: classic street art, mural style and artist’s choice.

As part of the Reimagine Art Festival, unique creations by more than 20 artists will be auctioned off in Gyro Park to raise funds for future public art projects in Penticton.

The Umbrella Project, created by the city’s Arts and Culture Committee, saw nearly 30 pieces of umbrella art on display on sponsor businesses this summer. Some businesses have opted to purchase their display umbrellas and the rest will be put up for auction.

The umbrellas will be on display in Gyro Park during the Downtown Community Market and Penticton Farmers’ Market on Saturday, Sept. 22. A silent auction will take place from 10 a.m. to noon in Gyro Park, with a live auction of five umbrellas at noon. Those will be from artists Endrené Shepherd, Janis Blyth, Meghan Westfall, Peter Corbett and Wolfe.