Sudbury Hospital Mural Writing Project

Hospital Mural Writing project – Context:

            For 60 years the former St. Joseph’s hospital served the greater Sudbury community and people as a place for healing, for care and recuperation, a place for birth, and a place for dying. The hospital has known intense joy and tragedy. Many residents have deep memories of their own interaction with the hospital. After the sale of the property in 2010 to a private developer, the hospital and site did not undergo an immediate re-development, but over the course of nine years slowly took on the presence and look of an abandoned site, with no forecast of re-development on the immediate horizon. The site had become an eyesore and urban embarrassment for the community. 

As part of its 2019 arts program, Up Here Festival commissioned world-renown street artist RISK to paint a mural on the former hospital. The final artistic product covers three quarters of the hospital’s external walls, making it the largest mural in the country with its 74000 square foot surface.   

The resulting work of art has made an outstanding impression on residents of the City of Greater Sudbury, in a variety of ways, positive and negative:

–  Thousands of residents drive by the mural each week, contemplating the physical aspects or the potential meanings behind the colours and mural design;

–  The mural has removed the stigma of an urban eyesore;

–  There is some public criticism of the mural, that it has become an eyesore itself and is now showing the effects of aging, reflected in the chipping and bleeding of the paint; conversely, there have been written reflections in the media regarding the positive and almost therapeutic effects of the mural on residents;

–   The residents of Sudbury have now had time to let the mural settle into their community conscience

As the building and site itself are in a state of transition, the mural has painted over the institutional aspect and history of the building; it is not a hospital anymore, nor an abandoned hospital or building, but an object of vivid colour and symbols in the midst of our community, however temporary that colour and beauty might be. The mural has enabled a subtle but significant and new narrative for the cultural life of the community. 

This is an idea and proposal to use the hospital mural as inspiration for activities to further arts in Sudbury. It has a number of cultural objectives:  

  • To use a building with historical and social history, and now with artistic significance, as a platform to express views of how the community of Sudbury is changing; 
  • To support the work of the Up Here Festival and support generally the arts and their vitality in Sudbury.   to serve as a mechanism to encourage participation in the Sudbury arts community;   
  • To use the hospital mural as a platform and focus for Sudbury arts groups to hold their   own call for art works;

Thoughts and observations on the hospital mural:

Though maintaining and evolving its mining heritage, culture and economy, Sudbury is also a city of other significant change and transformation – this is true and relevant towards how Sudbury’s residents have helped transform Sudbury’s environment, its educational institutions and its science infrastructure:

o   Does the hospital mural – its colours and size – somehow reflect the community’s and residents’ attitudes towards change?

o   And what about Sudbury’s evolving cultural and social diversity – do the brilliant colours of the hospital mural also say something about that important part of our cultural and social landscape?

·    The mural continues to attract the public, who use the adjacent city parking lot as a place to park and take photographs

·   There has been some public criticism of the mural in the media, countered by views supporting the positive contribution of the mural to the cultural landscape;

·   According to the 2019 Sudbury traffic study, thousands of residents (up to 35,000 per 24 hour day)  pass by and see the mural  – what might be happening in the minds of all these residents regarding their thoughts about the mural, the arts community, their community in general?  If it is still having an effect on residents, what is the nature of that effect?

·   Will people view the mural differently in the winter?  What about the mural’s temporary status and nature?

·   Is there a connection between the mural and the original hospital function, as a place of healing – do former patients of the hospital see something unique in the mural?