There’s a local artist responsible for the colourful mural you may have walked by recently downtown. That would be Chris Bennett, a born and raised, proud local and full time artist who calls Belleville home.
“I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for the past 25-30 years. I’ve made artwork a part of Belleville. It’s definitely got a lot more potential, so this is perhaps a step in the right direction to encourage more public art. And to encourage tourism, for people to come down and feel the energy, and feel the positivity that artwork gives a social environment.”
“I love creating artwork; when you have a job you love doing, you don’t work a day in your life. ”
Chris has his own perception of the downtown that he’d like to share.
“There are certain things people don’t like. Every major city, every little city, has its issues, its problems. But to me the downtown is the heartbeat of the city, if you take it back to the old school and the tradition. There are so many good people down here, from residents to business owners. I want to see Belleville grow, I want people to feel proud to come down here: that’s what’s really motivating me to do this artwork. I want to break the old stigmas: “I don’t like downtown,” or “It’s full of this, it’s full of that.” Then be the change—don’t complain about it. Come down and get with like minded people; realize that there are wonderful people, businesses and opportunities down here.”
Spray paint is Chris’s tool of choice for the mural going up in the downtown.
“Traditionally, the spray can generally gives people a bad idea. They think that just because it’s a spray can that it’s graffiti art. It’s not graffiti, but spray paint is the tool that we use, not a paintbrush. The evolution of what artists are doing and what is going on with artwork within cities and businesses now is phenomenal. That’s the market that I’ve tapped into: working along with businesses and clients to help break that stigma and offer art to everyone.”
When it comes to the process of creating a mural of such a large scale, Chris has a plan for his art execution.
“A lot of it is mental. For many of the projects I take on, I mentally prepare for weeks or months. It takes me some time to figure out the best procedure, how I can apply the artwork to the surface, what’s the best route to do so, what ideas work, and what don’t. As far as content or creativity, the sky’s the limit with me—I love everything. There’s nothing I can’t create that’s visual. I love all that challenge.”
Chris is very familiar with Belleville but he’s noting a big change that is happening.
“The energy that is down here is historic. And what I mean is that Belleville is very traditional, but revitalization is happening. I’m starting to see more of the people that surround us. I’ve had so many different types of people from lawyers, bankers, homeless people, addicts to police officers just approach me and [the mural is] getting people talking. Belleville has definitely got the energy and I think people want a change, they’re waiting for the change. There are some good people that are currently doing things in our community that want to see change and I’m on board. This is a step in that direction.”
The mural going up downtown is a step in the right direction for his future goals.
“I’ve made myself a prominent artist in the Quinte area. So, now I’m really focused on national and international. I get motivated from big murals and huge projects. My goal is so big it’s almost unfathomable. Some say I’m not realistic but this is a step towards that. It’s been a lot of years of persevering and typical artist lifestyle. And now I’m able to eat, as they say.”