There are some common staples in most towns of 10,000-150,000... Strip malls, chain stores, a struggling downtown, some quirky branding, and a general lack of culture. Sudbury, ON has all of those things, but amongst the stereotypes is a group of people who are dedicated to inspiring the community with creative projects like 'We Live Up Here' and 'UP HERE Festival.'
The initiatives were created by a few Sudburians who want to inspire creativity in the city and create space for interaction, involvement and positivity. I was extremely honoured to experience and interact with the festival in it's second year and see how a small town can shake up the norms and bring the community together.
This festival is the type of event you might expect from cities like Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver and has attracted a variety of muralists, musicians and installation artists to Sudbury to participate in 3 days of displays. UP HERE uses a combination of local venues, galleries and restaurants as well as a shut-down street for the weekend all taking place in the charming downtown core which attracts people downtown that normally might stick to the suburbs and strip-malls.
My favourite part about the festival were the curated murals that are painted over the weekend by artists from France, Vancouver, Toronto and Sudbury. The murals will be up for a minimum of 5 years at a time and are an integral part of creating long-lasting vibrancy in the community, something I always hoped for in my hometown of Nanaimo, BC. I found myself watching the muralists painting and asking people walking by what they thought about the murals... There were some folks who didn't know what to think or weren't sure how to interact with the art and some people who loved it, but it seemed everyone was very curious and interested in what was happening that weekend.