Why He’s a Top 40: For beautifying the city with murals and advocating for public art
You may have stopped to admire the mural of local legend Joey Moss on 99th Street and 72nd Avenue and thought to yourself, “Edmonton needs more of this.” The artist behind its creation couldn’t agree more. “Improving public spaces is my primary goal,” says Ian Mulder, independent artist, muralist and street art advocate. “It’s worthwhile investing in beauty.”
What began as a desire to beautify an often-grey cityscape has become something much larger. “Every year we get better and better and bigger and bigger projects,” he says about Mulder Studios. “Now I do more post-architectural work.” One of Mulder’s most recent projects was the Varscona Theatre tower, which he transformed from a washed-out eyesore to a colourful display of LED lights with shades of blue and green. Mulder maintains a bitter relationship with the Capital City. “She’s a cruel mistress, this town,” he says. His quandary resides with the fact that infrastructure is built on a “build it and need it basis,” with little regard to design and durability.
As someone who has lived in Europe and Australia, and travelled in Latin America, he strongly feels that Edmontonians live in isolation. “I just think we’d be a lot happier if we could spend time rubbing shoulders with each other in public spaces more often,” he says. “We live in a festival city, but we can’t have [condensed living] in our daily culture; we have to have it at special events.” As an evolving artist, Mulder hopes to go to architecture school in the near future. “I feel the limit of my practice, in a way,” he says. “I would benefit from that kind of training.”
Mulder has extended his reach beyond developing his personal portfolio. Aside from commissioned projects, he also started Giants of Edmonton, a collaborative program with the City of Edmonton that was created to promote the Graffiti Management Program through a series of creative, positive works of art. “I’m not really a street artist, but I go to bat for them publicly,” he says. “There is so much wonderful energy here. I mean, we should harness that instead of continually trying to fight against it.”