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Creating art across City walls

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Spencer Butterfield, left, Glayson Leroy, Hiero Veiga and Nhuri Bashir are helping to promote artists with the Bermuda Walls Mural Festival, which kicks off at Butterfield & Vallis on Saturday (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The rebellion that drove the street art of the 1970s isn’t there but the murals now popping up around Hamilton have a similar impact.

Eye-catching in scale, design and colour — for the local creators the paintings are a springboard to off-island exhibits.

“It's basically creating an opportunity for the Bermuda artists to be invited to different countries — to Florida in the US or in Brazil, where we're starting some stuff, and maybe eventually out in Hawaii,” said Glayson Leroy who, with Spencer Butterfield and Nhuri Bashir, is cofounder of the Bermuda Walls Mural Festival.

“It's bringing an opportunity for the local artists to showcase their work to a broader international audience.”

The trio hope that this weekend’s festivities are the start of a movement — even if property owners in Hamilton are slow to come on board.

“The proof is in the pudding — that’s the adage. I think once people see the quality of the artwork that goes up, things will change. If you go up to someone who is not familiar with the work and ask if you can put a mural on their wall, you might get that hesitation: what are you talking about? But now, as we have this first iteration of Bermuda Walls Mural Festival, we’re hoping that it will open people's eyes up to the concept that artwork in public spaces is beautiful,” said Bashir, cofounder of Burnt House Productions, the Bermuda-based film production company.

“It's not defaming or bringing down the value [of the building]; it’s actually bringing up the value. So we’re hoping that in the coming years people will be more receptive.”

The two-day event kicks off on Saturday and features local artists Alshante Foggo, Shanna Hollis, Robyn Hooper, DaeNyce “Keile” Rabain, Carlos Santana and Jabarri Wilson. Also on show will be art by Bacon, BK Foxx, CHNK, Hiero and Lauren YS, muralists from overseas.

The public are invited to watch as the artists create. The family-friendly celebration will include live DJs, skateboard demonstrations, pop-a-wheelie competitions, face painting and Gombey performances. Food trucks will be on site.

The idea came out of talks between longtime friends Butterfield and Leroy, the owner of Wynwood Mural Fest, “a wonderful celebration of street art and graffiti” in Miami, Florida.

“Discussions with Nhuri in the fall of last year kind of brought all of the elements that we needed to pull off not only the artwork but also to create a festival so that it would be more than just bringing the artists in for the painting but also creating something for the public and wrap in the local artists,” said Butterfield, the chief executive of Butterfield & Vallis.

Spencer Butterfield, left, Glayson Leroy, Hiero Veiga and Nhuri Bashir are helping to promote artists with the Bermuda Walls Mural Festival, which kicks off at Butterfield & Vallis on Saturday (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

“We just got really excited about the idea. Nhuri and Glayson are very inspiring with their networking and contacts within the art world and just how they're involved in art.”

Having seen the “incredible” transformation at Wynwood, he was certain that the murals here could become a tourist attraction in their own right.

“These artists are celebrated; people follow them. And so the installation that they've done in Bermuda that people haven't seen, we're hoping that people will come and visit Bermuda for that reason,” Butterfield said.

How many murals will eventually be created is anyone’s guess. Time and weather conditions will impact the output.

Bermuda Walls will hold its debut mural festival in Hamilton this weekend (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

“The local artists have identified walls throughout town and they're getting permission [to paint on them] and the foreign artists, when they finish the wall here at Butterfield & Vallis, we’re identifying other walls where they might jump into it, assuming we're able to get permission — which we're trying to do quickly.”

Almost certain is that one will be painted on the walls of Devil’s Isle, the Burnaby Street restaurant.

Hiero Veiga, an American artist who is helping to organise the festival, was thrilled to receive an invitation to join Bermuda Walls.

“I come from an island similar to Bermuda, so gauging that dialogue with people has been easy for me. I painted in many different communities, and overall, when I finish, I would say that the dialogue is usually positive. I've been good at being a gateway or a bridge between cultures and communities and I feel as an artist that it’s part of my job to link people together, to bring people together, to bring communities together.”

It helps that street art has progressed beyond the graffiti that was popular in the mid-1970s.

“In the past murals and street art has often been a language of revolution and I would say now it is more an invitation, an invite, a landmark. Don't get me wrong, there is still a big portion of my craft that is very politically charged, but I would say now it's more like a postcard or it's seen as just exterior artwork,” Hiero said.

“And then coming into communities, I would say my job is to become a tool or a filter or a voice — whether it be positive or negative. My job and my responsibility is to the people that inhabit the community, and then everything else. Of course, I would rather do it as beautifully as possible, but I would say acting as a filter and being able to link the messages together is what I find most important.”

Thanks to the strength of Leroy’s artist contacts abroad and Bashir’s connections here, finding the talent to create the murals was a simple task.

“This is really connective tissue and it brought in all of the opportunities not just for the international artists but for local artists to be able to do things abroad also,” Bashir said.

Barring an accident to the walls, the murals will last anywhere from three to five years.

Bermuda Walls starts on Woodlands Road on Saturday at 2pm until 8pm and runs on Sunday from 12pm until 4pm. Admission is free. Follow @bermudawalls on Instagram for more updates and for a mural map. For more information visit www.wynwoodmuralfest.com; hieroveiga.com

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Published April 11, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 10, 2024 at 3:44 pm)

Creating art across City walls

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