News / Toronto

Chicago artist to paint Roncesvalles footbridge - with primary colours

To celebrate Canada's 150 and Chicago's Year of Public Art, the cities are swapping artists to create public art installations.

Chicago artist Justus Roe paints in bright, primary colours and has a relatively abstract style. He will be painting the Roncesvalles footbridge as part of an innovative artist swap between Toronto and Chicago.

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All photos courtesy of Justus Roe

Chicago artist Justus Roe paints in bright, primary colours and has a relatively abstract style. He will be painting the Roncesvalles footbridge as part of an innovative artist swap between Toronto and Chicago.

The Roncesvalles footbridge is getting a brightly-coloured makeover by Chicago artist Justus Roe as part of an innovative artist swap between Toronto and Chicago.

The two cities are exchanging artists for public art installations this year as part of Canada's 150 and Chicago's Year of Public Art.

The City of Chicago has been sent a shortlist of Toronto artists and is expected to announce a decision soon. The public art display in Chicago will go up by the fall, according to StART project manager Jodi Callan.

For now, Chicago has let Toronto borrow Roe to brighten up the west-end pedestrian bridge.

Roe paints in bright, primary colours and has a relatively abstract style, which works well for the site as the areas he'll be painting vary between short, long and angular.

He began his work with primary colours around the time his daughter was born.

"I was reading Dr. Suess books and had to accept that primary colours have a certain affect on the brain," he said. "I'm going to stick to it for now, at least."

As for his plan, there isn't one.

"I freestyle it," he said. "I find that I have better success when I don't work off a sketch and I let the environment guide it."

Roe said a lot of murals fail when it looks like they were traced out, or done in photoshop and thrown on the wall. He lets the space and how people engage with it inspire him.

The project is partnered with Toronto's STEPS Initiative. Executive director Alexis Kane Speer said the main goal is to keep the project locally relevant.

Kane Speer said they haven't worked with an artist who freestyles their work before, but they're looking forward to it.

"We are pretty excited," she said. "We are fully confident in his abilities and the renderings we've seen have been really exciting."

Roe plans on spending most of his time at the site, and he works fast so he anticipates completing it before the end of the month.

"I'll be there sun-up to sun-down at least," he said.

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