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Public art deemed 'game changer' in downtown Barrie

Murals among works of art springing up, including one recently painted in Lakeshore Mews alleyway
Bruno Smoky is shown working on a mural in downtown Barrie.

Spring is here and downtown Barrie is blooming.

A recently painted mural in the Lakeshore Mews alleyway is one of several public art projects being created to bring colour to the community.

Titled Swift, it was painted by the artistic duo, Clandestinos Art. Individually known as Bruno Smoky and Shalak Attack, together they are dedicated to painting murals around the world by creating narratives that unify both real and imaginary dimensions.

Emerging as visual artists about a decade before they met, the Clandestinos had each developed their own unique artistic voice. Shalak was born and raised in Canada by Chilean immigrant parents, and Smoky was born on the coast and raised in the mega-city of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Once they started painting together they found it difficult to stay away from each other, in art and as life partners. With time they began to fuse their artwork to create unified pieces by balancing and adding to as well as learning and growing from each other’s styles.

The pair have created art around the world, receiving international recognition. Some highlights in their artistic careers include collaborations with the United Nations, FIFA World Cup Rio de Janeiro, Absolut Vodka, American Express, Adidas, Cirque du Soleil, Rolling Stone magazine and Amsterdam’s Straat Museum. After adding a third Clandestino to their crew — their daughter, Violeta — they moved to Barrie to raise their family, where they continue to create art locally and internationally.

Their new mural in downtown Barrie, in the alleyway connecting Dunlop Street to the Lakeshore Mews, shows a resilient and colourful woman who lives in balance with her surrounding nature. She celebrates the many women-owned businesses in the neighbourhood and honours their feminine creative energy.

She’s paired with chimney swifts, migratory birds that return to Barrie after a long journey from places as far away as Chile and Brazil. This threatened species shelters in chimneys, enjoying the protected safety high off the ground. They remind us of our interconnectedness with nature, even in urban settings, and inspire us with their strength and spirit.

The mural joins other recent public art projects in downtown Barrie, such as The Land Knows You installation on the pink building by artist Alanah Astehtsi Otsistohkwa (Morningstar) Jewel, and the strawberry mural, Little by Little a Little Becomes a Lot, on Maple Avenue, created by artist Bareket Kezwer and painted with local artist Monica Loney.

These projects are an investment in the community and in local artists. Explains artist Monica Loney, “After completing several murals within the City of Barrie, actively providing creative outlets for the public during Open Air Dunlop and having my art on display at city hall and various local businesses in Barrie, I have developed a strong passion for accessible public art; I have seen first-hand its positive effects and ability to transform and unite a community.”

“I believe that by providing access to art and creative experiences, we foster space for self-expression, community identity and positive ownership. Our environment affects our mindset and by showing care through art, we have the power to uplift. Providing local artists opportunities to showcase their work has also been a community game changer. Through supporting local, a powerful statement is being made: We believe in the people of our city.”

Downtown Barrie has long been a hub for the arts; it’s home to the MacLaren Art Centre, Spare Room Artist Studios and Drawing House. Many other local businesses are embracing arts transformative powers; at Bayside Variety, the dining experience has been enhanced with an artist showcase. In February and March, the work of local artist Alexandra Gronfors was featured in the restaurant, and right now, you can enjoy the work of Ryley James.

When nearby Nook Yoga opened last fall, local artists’ work adorned the studio.

“Filling our space with local art is a great way to showcase the talent in our city,” explains co-owner Chantal Laurin. “By giving local artists a platform to display their work, it not only provides exposure for the artist but also helps to foster a sense of pride and identity within the community. It also brings a unique perspective and diversity, which is refreshing for our members and those visiting Nook.”

“We value what they do and want to encourage people to purchase art from local artists. This supports the local economy and promotes a sense of community and connection between artists and their supporters. Overall, featuring local artists is an important aspect of promoting cultural vibrancy and creativity within a community.”

With many more public art projects in store for this spring, the Downtown Barrie BIA invites you to explore and see how art is enhancing our shared spaces and local businesses. We’re excited to work with local artists on projects like these, to create a better downtown, together.