Artist working to revitalize back alleys in Burnaby
Back alleys are typically seen as dark and dangerous areas but the City of Burnaby is hoping a local artist can help change that perception – one can of spray paint at a time.
Chris Allen is a professional artist who spends most of his time tattooing out of Grapevine Tattoo. But his love of art sparked his idea to ask the city of Burnaby to help him expand his work onto the city's walls.
"Anything that can brighten up somebody's day, whether it's a surprise wall that they can walk through and see or that they can relate to it's really cool to lend my hand to it."
Working in a tunnel just off Kingsway, Allen is working to transform the grey walls into a colourful walkway.
It's an approach he says makes the space not only vibrant but safer as well.
"I've probably had about four different women of various ages stop and say they love the work but also that they're really excited just because they feel safer on their daily walk to the SkyTrain and home."
Two women walking through the path agreed the new artwork brings life to the neighbourhood.
"Anything to help us feel a little bit more secure. I think it just makes it a bit brighter and makes it a bit safer for sure," one woman said walking by.
It's a plan the city hopes will help revitalize neighbourhoods.
"When you change a visual dynamic of an area, people become more engaged with upkeeping the area, take more responsible for it, take more ownership of it," said Todd Polich, the mural coordinator of the city of Burnaby.
"It's so dynamic and vibrant that it makes people get away from their phones and go check things out. It's the whole element of bringing something beautiful to the community and encouraging the community to keep it beautiful."
Allen's passion for art took off more than 20 years ago, after he decided to get sober. From tattooing to drawing – he creates on any canvas he can find.
"I knew from a young age, whether it was drawing on walls, or in the back of a classroom, or when I started pulling out my brushes and paints that this was my dream," said Allen.
But even though his latest installation is sanctioned by the local government, he says he's been mistaken for a vandal because he uses spray-paint.
"I had somebody call security on me, so security came up and I had to show them my contract," said Allen.
He plans to put a few more hours into this particular art piece before it's complete but hopes he can continue the project and bring colour and beauty to more empty walls around the city.
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