The Sunnyside Mural is a Nod to Community

You may have walked by, or ridden your bike past, a new art installation in Sunnyside. This community mural was created by Miró Esteban (14), grandson to active community members, Buff and Richard Smith. We caught up with Miró to ask him more about his motivation around the mural and how it was executed – even in the near freezing temperatures we had this past spring.

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1. We heard the mural was a gift for your grandmother, is this true? What made you decide to do this as a gift? The mural was a gift for my grandmother, she wanted a mural on the fence for a few years, but my grandpa was unsure. This Christmas my grandpa decided to go for the mural. So, as a gift he flew all of us to Calgary to paint the mural. The original idea was for my dad to design the artwork. Recently, I had been trying out a new style, so he asked me if I wanted to do the mural. And that’s how I ended up doing the mural.

2. How long have you been painting or drawing? I have been drawing all my life. In our old house, we had an art wall that would rotate as me and my sister would make new drawings. We have thousands upon thousands of drawings stored away. It’s a lot of [fun] to look through them and see how my art style has progressed.

3. How did you come up with the idea/concept/images for the mural? The main idea of the mural was based off a very large bookmark I made earlier, the bookmark had a few different biomes that would morph into different landscapes. But instead of being very long it was very tall. As I was doing the mural I had one main struggle. Normally when I’m drawing I like to make the drawing extremely detailed. But I knew I couldn’t make it so detailed for the mural since we would have to paint it all. I also tend to make more creepy/dark art, so it was a lot of fun making all the cute and silly creatures. I know my grandma loves frogs and birds, but I’m not very good at drawing them so I made some [frog] and bird like creatures. But a lot more strange. After I made the drawing I uploaded it onto the computer and started adding colour. For almost all my drawings I keep them in black and white. So this was a new experience for me. I knew I had to stay to a limited colour palette, otherwise my grandpa would have to buy too many colours of paint. I decided that the first section would be a main theme of greens, with accents of purple and blue. The second area was an ocean so I made it blue, and then contrasted that with reds and oranges.

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4. How did you execute the project? What were the outlines of the steps taken to complete this? Executing the project was definitely the hardest part, we worked pretty nonstop the week or so we were there. It was made a lot easier by all the help we had, our cousins came to help (which was very exiting since we only see them yearly)! We had nine people to work on the mural. We had to set up a whole tarp area around the fence section we worked on with space heaters inside, to let the paint dry. The first day we got there we waited until night and set up the projector and then started working. We wanted to have all the pencil outlines done before our cousins got there. We managed to finish the outlines for the whole fence. It was a little stressful for me since I’m a bit of a perfectionist, a lot of the lines wouldn’t line up because we would have bumped the projector. My dad kept telling me that it would all be fine. It was still very exciting to see my art start to come to life. The next day we set up the tarps and started painting, my dad said that out of experience it would be easier to do the black lines after the painting. I wasn’t sure, but I trusted him (he was totally right!) after the painting we did the lines for that section and then started the painting for the next section. As we were on the second part it was snowing like crazy. But we still managed to heat it up enough to work. Now when I see a mural I appreciate even more how much time are put into them.

5 Why do you think community art projects like this are important? I definitely think that community art projects are important. I’ve actually always liked graffiti, not the one were people just write their name in black spray paint, but the large colourful drawings. I feel they classify as art. Murals are just like organized, planned graffiti. It makes boring surfaces a lot more interesting to look at. Especially if you do something unique.

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6. What does community mean to you? Community has always been very important to me. I have lived in the same house all my life, so I know all the neighbours very well. We have a tradition that if anyone gives you food or treats when you return the plate it must have food on it again. We also lend each other ingredients whenever necessary, we don’t pay each other back because we know that if we need anything our neighbours will share.

7. Why do you think this mural is a good fit for Sunnyside? I feel the mural fits Sunnyside quite well, at least my experience of it. My grandparents have always been very community driven, they know everyone in Sunnyside. (Well probably not everyone, but they know a lot of people.) I find the mural reflects this community. All the creatures in the mural have different relationships to each other and the landscape. It’s like a large community of creatures.

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8. What advice would you give to other aspiring artists or community builders? My main piece of advice to aspiring artists is don’t care what other people think. I draw for me, and the pleasure of drawing. I don’t really care what others think about my art, even though it is fun when others enjoy it, because I love making my art!

Thanks for this opportunity!