'Cultural tourist': How a renowned street artist's 'Indigenous inspiration' fell flat
Michael Maxxis's pie-in-the-sky idea of bringing a world-renowned street artist to paint a six-storey mural in Edmonton will become a reality starting this weekend.
Maxxis and Fish Griwkowsky, his partner in the project, raised more than $120,000 for a mural to be painted by Okuda San Miguel on the north wall of the Crawford Block, a new condo tower beside the El Cortez restaurant just off Whyte Avenue.
San Miguel, who just finished a mural in downtown Toronto, will arrive in Edmonton Saturday and will paint around the clock with his crew and finish up on Wednesday.
Maxxis, who is one of the co-owners of El Cortez, is thrilled the Spanish artist agreed to paint the mural.
"It still feels kind of surreal," Maxxis told CBC's Radio Active.
San Miguel is known for his colourful work around the world and with his busy schedule, it was a complicated process to contact the artist, Maxxis said. He had to contact him through another person.
After months of correspondence, he got the approval — he just needed the money.
But that's where some organizations stepped up.
Capital City Clean Up, a litter reduction and graffiti prevention initiative by the City of Edmonton, made the first major donation.
The Old Strathcona Business Association and the Old Strathcona Farmers Market donated large sums of money and Aurora Cannabis, which sponsored the Toronto mural, kicked in some money too.
Other businesses and individual Edmontonians also donated, and the initiative surpassed its goal of $80,000.
Maxxis said he initially underestimated the cost and expects it to be closer to $100,000. He plans to donate the rest of the money to the Rust Magic street art festival, which will go to other murals across the city.
"I just think it's so, so important for Edmontonians and people in general to be exposed to art," Maxxis said. "It stirs thought, it inspires your own ideas and your own creativity.
"To bring in an international-calibre artist of this level, it sets the bar."
San Miguel has his mural mapped out — Maxxis said it's inspired by Alberta wildlife and landscapes. He said there will be a message he's trying to get across, but he won't be telling anyone what it is.
"[He's] expressing something through metaphor," Maxxis said. "It's always more effective and powerful when you don't spell it out for people."
San Miguel will arrive Saturday and work around the clock with his team until Wednesday. He'll be painting during the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival.