It was a short 2.5 km walk through Little Britain, an older area of Sudbury, passing through a dreary looking area with that smell of industrial dry cleaning.
I passed an old brewery and railway tracks and ended up in a fairly nice looking area from perhaps about 100 years ago. At some point half way, I was a bit puzzled where to go, as the road was veering into a direction I had not expected.
I pulled out the cell phone to check Google Maps, checked where I was and put it back in my pocket as fast as I could: the cold air shuts down the cell phone within minutes. I discovered I had not read the map properly: there was a staircase I had to scale. I was on my way to the Art Gallery of Sudbury. By foot. In winter. In Sudbury.
Free entrance at the Art Gallery of Sudbury
Arriving at the gallery, somewhat hidden in a residential neighbourhood, I found a young person sweeping the front steps. He stopped when he saw me and walked me to the front door, which was closed as I was the first (and only) visitor. Entrance is free at the gallery, but donations are appreciated. As I was looking for my wallet, we chatted about the gallery’s plans to move to downtown if the arena is moving out of downtown and the upheaval it has been causing among the population. I brought up Lebreton flats and it turns out my new found friend is a huge fan of the Sens (Last man standing I guess?). The current gallery is based in the former home of lumber baron Bell.
Everything remains RAW
I had expected a collection of Group of Seven and Group of Seven wannabe paintings, although the website of the gallery had given me the impression there isn’t a permanent exposition though. I wasn’t sure what to expect. There was mention of a hop hop artist thing, originally shown in the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg and now in Sudbury: “Everything remains RAW: Photographing Toronto’s Hip Hop culture from analog to digital”. I thought I should give it a try. It got pretty good reviews.
The gallery has two rooms and both were taken over by the RAW exhibit. I received a hand out and spent about an hour checking out photographs of hip hop artists who were largely unknown to me. I listen to some cool music videos by Mark Valino and admired several mural style paintings. The idea of the exhibit was to highlight the Toronto hip hop scene of the 1990’s.
Capture the socio-spatial terrain
The curator, Mark Campbell, can say it much better than I can, so here is a quote from the exhibit:
“Not unlike the the canonical landscape paintings of Emily Carr, Lawren Harris and others, these graffiti works capture the socio-spatial terrain in which individuals and groups come to identify themselves as belonging not only to the their city, but also to a community of artists who can appreciate a “wildstyle” of visual art -the elaborate, colourful and dynamic graffiti pieces that characterize the pinnacle of the art form since the 1970’s. Graffiti, despite its (sometimes) ephemerality, exudes a competitive imagery.”
(Mark Campbell is Assistant Professor at the RTA School of Media and a former Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Regina’s Department of Fine Arts. Mark is a scholar, DJ and advocate of the arts, with more than a decade of radio experience. )
I particularly liked the portrait photography. There is work from Patrick Nichols, great portraits by Michael Chambers, Sheinina Raj, Stella Fakiyesi and Grammy and Juno award winner David Strickland (featured in the video “Rez life” below. Rez as in ‘reserve’)
There are large paintings from Eklipz, Elicser Elliott and EGR (Erica Balon) (Boom Box Love 2018). I can see these works will eventually become ambassadors of the late 20th century Zeitgeist.
Golden Grain Bakery
On the way back, I walked past the well known Golden Grain bakery, founded 3 generations ago by a miner from Croatia who enjoyed baking when he wasn’t in the mines. In fact he liked it so much he made it is profession. Last time I was in Sudbury, the shop was closed, but today it was open so I went in and bought some goodies.
Coffee at Kuppajo
For coffee I walked back to downtown and stopped by at Kuppajo Espresso Bar. There are a few gems such as Kuppajo. The ginger latte tea is soothing and the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. Note the colourful piano in the corner at the entrance. I love places with large communal tables. Sudbury’s downtown is quite depressing, with many buildings that have seen better times and lots of surface parking. But some businesses appear to do just fine. People I spoke all mentioned the Laughing Buddha as a place to go. I think what somehow appeals to me is the time warp of downtown Sudbury: it is not difficult to imagine how life was 50-70 years ago.
Chamber of Commerce
I dropped by at the Chamber of Commerce, which in North America often takes care of the tourist information. The receptionist was a bit taken a back to have a tourist inquiring for some information about walks in the heart of winter. I had hoped there would be a self guided tour to see some of the older heritage buildings but she informed me there was no such thing. I did find a 2015 trail map in their info racks with mostly hotel brochures from the usual franchise hotel and inn variety suspects.
Murals are a thing. Karen and I often joke that murals are the last resort for a city. But not in Sudbury. More and more murals appear in Sudbury and the difference is that these murals are actually works of art, rather than the somewhat corny images of days past such as steam trains, hewers of wood and drawers of water. Sudbury has its Up Here festival and since 2013, Sudbury has added 28 new murals. Here are some I saw this time.
Martha Dillman of the local CBC created an interactive map which shows where you can find the murals. Look for it here. Of course I didn’t find this map until I was back home.
In 2017 I visited Sudbury and I cycled to the Sudbury smoke stack via the Trans Canada Trail (aka the Great Trail). And I rode to Laurentian University with Karen. Read more about that trip here. The next post is about XC skiing in Sudbury and skating on Ramsey Lake.