Waterloo Region has become a hotspot for interactive, Instagram-worthy murals. Walk many of the streets in Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo, or among the townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot, and Woolwich and you’ll notice public art everywhere!
Murals can be effective ways to prevent graffiti, promote local businesses, and inspire communities to share stories. Waterloo Region’s street artists have transformed many empty walls into vibrant conversation starters.
Today, we share one of the stories behind those walls. Commercial mural artists, Sandy and Steve Pell of PELLVETICA painted one of Cambridge’s hottest Instagram-worthy murals, #galtwings, located on the backside of The Art of Home in downtown Galt. Since transforming the grey wall into a massive interactive mural piece in July 2019, #galtwings has since become a popular icon of the Galt community.
Transforming once blank spaces into memorable, interactive places
My name is Sandy and I am one of the artists behind team PELLVETICA. I’m thrilled to bring you behind the scenes of creating our #galtwings mural!
Artist Sandy Pell
To give you a little background, my partner and I kicked our mural business off back in 2014 when we were living in Vancouver, BC. After painting a few indoor corporate murals at some of the city’s fastest-growing tech offices, we started receiving numerous emails from other businesses, restaurants, and cafes who had similar visions for their spaces. It’s also worth noting that Vancouver’s walls have become mural magnets thanks to world-renowned annual events like the Vancouver Mural Festival.
Fast forward to two years ago, and we made the move back to the Waterloo Region; a place many murals already call home. You’ll recognize many of them, including Luke Swinson whose work Ayaabe and Gekek is part of the new Hughes Lane Art Walk in Uptown Waterloo, Trish Abe who just completed a new mural at Cafe Pyrus Outpost in Waterloo, Stephanie Boutari who painted the colourful mural in Goudie’s Lane in Kitchener, and Stephanie Scott who wrapped up a great new typographic mural in St. Jacobs.
We believe that with the right amount of planning and paint, any wall can come to life! Murals have the capacity to transform blank spaces into memorable, interactive places. We know that because watched some pretty incredible moments take place in front of our murals; many people making memories.
Our goal wasn’t always to paint murals that were interactive. The thing was, the more murals we painted, the more we noticed visitors would pose in front of the artwork and take photos for social media. So today, instead of just focusing on creating artwork that people look at, we now focus on immersing them into interactive experiences that they can become a part of.
The #galtwings mural is a community mural
In the spring of 2019, a Cambridge home decor and lifestyle boutique, The Art of Home, realized a vision; they wanted to create an interactive mural on the side of their business that would both contribute to their community and attract new people to the Galt area of Cambridge. From the second we met them, we noticed that these small-business owners were incredibly passionate and hyper-motivated by their mission. They recognized that street art could be used as a tool to achieve their vision, and that it would not only help their business grow but also to help the community thrive.
Through a process of conversation, iteration, and conceptualization, we landed on the idea of painting an enormous pair of interactive Canada goose wings. The iconic Canada goose was such a common sight along the Grand River which so beautifully flows through downtown Cambridge.
Next, we studied wing anatomy, feather placement, and even the purpose behind the different sections of the wing so that the work had a realistic, yet abstract, feel.
Pleased with the design direction, our next step was to photograph the local gardens of Galt. We knew that these would be the best resource materials to use as inspiration when illustrating the background of the mural. All of our photographs were taken within a 1000-meter radius of the wall’s location so that we could gracefully complement and surround the wings with local flowers.
Since we also wanted to design the #galtwings mural to be interactive, we took visitor’s heights into consideration to help determine where the wings should be positioned. The wings were designed to best fit with visitors at heights between 4 and 6 feet, while also considering that children could jump into them!
Our non-stop engagement with the people of Galt really helped bring this mural to life! It goes without saying that we absolutely love opportunities where we get to interact with the people of the community we’re painting within. They teach us just as much as we teach them!
After five energizing days of production (14-18 hours with two of us working), we completed the #galtwings! We often worked late into the nights, sometimes as late as 4 a.m., yet in doing so we had some of the most incredibly memorable conversations with members of the Galt community.
Completing the #galtwings mural was an incredibly rewarding experience. We must have had well over a hundred local residents and tourists stop by to chat. Many of them shared very personal stories with us as they watched us transform the wall day by day. It didn’t matter where they were from, or how much money they earned; everyone who visited us shared such a deep appreciation for the artwork.
To this day, we receive many lovely messages as we watch people create memories in front of that wall; everything from new brides to babies to barbies, puppies, kids, and everything in-between. We’re honoured and amazed that the #galtwings have brought so many people together, especially in a world where division can easily separate us. The community was so incredibly hospitable, loving, and appreciative. This both surprised us and captivated our hearts, solidifying the power that street art can wield.
Finally, we wish to thank everyone who stopped by to chat, showed us their aspiring sketchbooks, and even bought us lunch! We will never forget the inspiration that you provided to us in every paint stroke. This mural is for you.
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