StART with a Faile

Not too long ago Wllnttz gathered at the Tollkeeper’s Cottage to hear Patrick McNeil discuss Faile’s new wall at Bathurst and Dupont.

“It’s much nicer to see something on a wall rather than grey paint. So many cities have so much dead space. When you go to a city that starts to embrace arts and culture it opens up the community to something special”, says Faile’s Patrick McNeil.

McNeil asked the gathering at the Tollkeeper’s Cottage…would we rather walk down Bathurst and see grey walls on either side or walk past some art and have something to contemplate on our way? “It makes the community so much more vibrant”, McNeil follows-up.

Fortunately there are those who agree. The Faile wall would not have been possible without StART (StreetARToronto), Spectrum Art Projects, Councillor Joe Mihevc and the community he represents.

Left to right: Simon from Spectrum Art Projects, Patrick McNeil of Faile, Councillor Joe Mihevc

Simon from Spectrum, “Toronto has roots in graffiti, like classic graffiti, like letter forms. In the late 90’s, early 2000’s it rivaled any city. Now days it’s open to different imagery. It’s nice to have a bunch of different flavours”. Simon feels that there is a lot room for growth. A program like StreetARToronto is one step to making this city more vibrant. “There are a lot of great artists working in this city.” Simon wishes to see a greater exchange of artists to both bring their mark to Toronto and also for Toronto artists to leave their mark elsewhere.

StreetARToronto is a municipal program designed to support and promote the culture of street art as a means to minimizing ‘graffiti’ vandalism. StART  connects emerging artists with communities via collaborations with Toronto’s Councilors, other city departments.

It is these local efforts that have made Toronto the first municipality to commission Faile.  Faile, founded by Canadian born Patrick McNeil and American Patrick Miller, is a contemporary art collaborative based in Brooklyn, New York. Faile has done many projects abroad since 1999, most of which are outdoor installations from murals to large-scale sculptures.

When Faile started their expression was largely through stencils and wheat pasting. Through the years it’s been about how to engage the public in different ways. Their work is the answer to the question, “How do we give the public the same experience of walking down a street or alley and finding that thing that surprised them?” In Lisbon, Faile responded to that question with the temple; in Mongolia it was the Wolf Within statue, and in Toronto it was the Bathurst mural.

Faile approached the challenging sloping and terraced wall through community suggestions. This led to imagery of animals, references to nature, and the Tollkeeper’s Cottage, a historic landmark at the base of the wall at Dupont. It was an unusual wall that required a landscape series of imagery. This long stretched format is contrary to much of their recent tall vertical pieces like the Faile Tower for the New York Ballet or the old Record Plant’s façade.

What many don’t realize is that for pieces like the Bathurst wall the majority of the work happens back at the studio. Like all good projects the Bathurst wall began with the ‘measure twice, art once’ philosophy, shares Simon. Back in the studio, unseen to the general public, Faile used traditional sign maker’s methods in combination with modern technology. “We laid the whole mural out and then put acetates over top and sketched it out and modified it”. From there they put it onto a computer, created a schematic of the wall and projected it onto large sheets of paper mounted on their studio wall. “We used a tool called a pouncing tool to trace it all out.” The pounced sheets were chalked, transferring the lines of the mural onto the pre-primed Bathurst wall. The painting itself took about a week.

Next time you pass by this new bright wall consider, what happened in 1986; reminisce about shadow puppets, imagine your favourite summer dress in that same floral print; racing cars with that vixen; or ask what is exactly beneath the sky?

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