Ever-changing Canvas

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Unique ‘gallery’ draws attention

What started out as a roughly sketched idea to attract spray-paint artists has transformed into wondrous, colourful canvas for creative minds.

A testament to street art, Airdrie’s Miller Paint Park is regularly decorated with multi-layered lettering and characters exhibited in vivid colours.

This Main Street compound at Nose Creek Park, fondly known by some as “The Cage,” slowly progressed from a tennis court to a temporary skateboard park to the current multi-use sports court and art park.

“It’s a neat little multi-use facility,” says Archie Lang, operations manager of Parks and Public Works with the City of Airdrie. “We have an offering for people to be able to use a paint spray can in a positive fashion as opposed to graffiti in a park.”

Formalized three years ago with the leadership of the Creative Airdrie Society, the outdoor canvas was born not only to detract from public graffiti-style vandalism but as a viable option for budding and existing artists to show their spray skills in public.

“The person [who] is going to vandalize in the community is a different person than these people. These people are artists and they see themselves as such and rightfully so,” Lang says. “Why wouldn’t they do something of a more artistic fashion in an area that is allowed and totally legal?”

This is not your average art gallery fare. Graffiti has evolved from the very beginnings of ancient symbolic cave pictograms through gang-style markings to modern day signature tags.

Going even beyond that, graffiti-style street art has been popularized by the music and fashion industries while earning respect in the visual art world.

Aerosol paint is the major medium seen at the park, whether used freestyle or, as displayed by well-known folk star artist Banksy, through stencilling.

justinpaint6326sMany of these spray-can Picassos, such as uncrowned king of the park Zach Abbott, have even used graffiti to launch an art career.

One of the original artists to put a mark on the park, Abbott has also acted as park host and instructor to younger budding artists.

“There’s a full spectrum of benefits that the paint park brings,” says Abbott. “It’s mostly premeditative, but also available for when that’s not an option and you just need to go down and let it happen.”

Bombing, an unsophisticated quick technique, is rarely seen at the park. Plenty of thought is going into this form of personal expression.

“It has some community energy,” Abbott says. “It’s more of a collection now rather than individual pieces. It’s a form of expression, a lot more than just letters.”

A onetime protégé of Abbot’s, digital artist Jared Hair recognizes the need for the outdoor gallery for the budding and experienced artist.

“These kids have a passion to paint and if you don’t fill that passion for them they are going to go about it the illegal way. The paint park here in Airdrie has overwhelming reviews. I find the quality of art there is escalating, [as well as] the level of artists who are coming out,” says Hair, who takes pride in maintaining the facility with his fellow artists.

A constantly shifting huge plywood canvas, the park is a summertime haven for aerosol aficionados, not only on the local scene but outside the city, too.

Hair says that the Airdrie gallery has attracted artists from surrounding cities, from Calgary to Cochrane and Bragg Creek to Okotoks.

“Usually you have to pay for a spot in a gallery for your art. This is free and one of the most popular areas in Airdrie,” says Hair, who is excited to see art forms trend beyond traditional graffiti lettering into more abstract realms.

“I think as it expands and more and more people hear about it,’ he says, “you’ll target those kinds of artists.”

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