Artists communicate with the city around them when they fill a wall with colourful images and tags, working to tell stories and opinions that may not be noticed otherwise.
This public art form is an important part of a community’s underground scene. Unfortunately, graffiti art is often seen as vandalism and destruction of property and therefore seen as a criminal act. Despite this, graffiti art can bring communities together, whether that be people already living nearby or tourists visiting to see the art scene.
Graffiti art and murals liven up an area, creating a sense of community and giving a voice to the unheard. It expresses ideas, creates conversation and is a reflection of its surroundings.
In Saskatoon, we have tons of art on the sides of buildings and bridges. Some have been commissioned — some not — but they all add charm to our lovely streets. In Broadway, Riversdale and the downtown area, art can be found around most corners.
The biggest piece of public art in the city of bridges is the mural on the side of the First Nations Bank downtown, found on Fourth Avenue. The mural is called Mino Pimatiziwin (A Good Life) – Rise From Water.
Painted by Emmanuel Jarus, the nine-story mural is based off of a photo of models from the Yellow Quill First Nation. It depicts a mother and father holding their child while standing in a body of water. The piece is mostly grey, with the colour coming from the water and the red ribbon tied in the woman’s hair.
This art piece holds so much importance in the city and depicts the strength of the community. The red ribbon tied in the woman’s hair commemorates missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Lastly, the family rising out of the water symbolizes the resilience of the Yellow Quill and their struggles with their water reserves caused by the British settlement.
An area that explodes with graffiti art is the dDrinkle aArtWall, which can be found in the alleyway beside the Drinkle Building on Third Avenue South. This wall is full of pieces by local artists and extends around the corner of the building.
Other than a blog or two listing it as an Instagram-worthy location, the wall cannot be found on the internet. It is something that needs to be experienced in person.
This is the beauty of graffiti art. It is often something people come across organically in back alleys, rather than by doing a Google search and seeing it through someone else’s lens.
A popular local mural that has been around since 2013 is The One Hand Man, painted by Kris Moffatt. It is located in Riversdale on Avenue C South, and it is hard to miss.
The One Hand Man is a great example of public art that vivifies a neighbourhood with a splash of colour, adding a sense of community and character with its long-lasting presence. Although the Riversdale area has lots of art to look at, this is the most popular piece. It immediately catches the eye with parts of the body that are combined with outer space, depicted as the background, and makes you think of what the possible meaning is behind the work.
Graffiti tells stories of the city and the people that live in it. The art is a way for people to express how they are reacting to their surroundings, specifically within the community. It adds value to meaningless walls and dark alleys.
Without the colour and expression graffiti art and murals offer, city streets would lack personality and would be overpopulated with mundane walls.