Kevin Ledo

Artist: Kevin Ledo
Photographer: Electrify

Travelling the World’s Alleyways and Parking Lots

Montreal-based artist Kevin Ledo is known throughout Canada and the world for his breathtaking large-scale portraits. Though he has the opportunity to paint and travel internationally, as a muralist, Kevin spends a good portion of his trips in alleyways and parking lots. While he was painting for the 2019 Nelson International Mural Festival, we convinced him to give us a quick exclusive about his artistic career.

What are a few of the places your art has taken you? Has living and working as an artist taken you anywhere unexpected?

Yes. It has taken me to a lot of unexpected places. Probably the most exotic, crazy place was the Kingdom of Bhutan because it’s really hard to get a visa to go there. I have paintings and murals in Asia— China, Thailand, and Taiwan. Recently, during the last couple years I’ve done stuff in Europe, and then, I don’t have anything yet in Africa, but in the Americas, across Canada, the US, Central America, and I did a couple in Brazil. I’ve always loved travelling. So, when I first started, I was just painting while I was travelling. Now I’m travelling to paint.

Is there anything that stood out during your visit to Nelson?

It’s fucking gorgeous! Uh, it’s ABSOLUTELY gorgeous. It’s so beautiful here, and the people really seem like my kind of vibe. I think it’s a town I really like. I’d love to spend more time here, if not on this trip then another time. People who like arts, culture, good food, and good coffee are my kind of people. But, the landscape. I mean, I’ve only been painting in this parking lot mostly, and I didn’t get to see too much yet, but I did go down to the water and it’s just beautiful. I love being in the mountains by water.

As a muralist, you create artworks that become a part of the community they are created in. From an artist’s perspective, what impact can public artworks have on a community?

The impacts are varying. In the worst-case scenario, I’m used as a tool of gentrification. In the best-case scenario, I do something that the community is proud of and can call their own. I like to do things which, as best I can, are relatable to the community. I always try to consider the community and whenever I can, I choose to paint somebody who is local. If I can, I’ll photograph them myself. I always have an underlying message in most of my work, a little bit less with this one—because this piece that I did in Nelson is a commission— but most of my work has a theme of celebrating diversity, inclusiveness, and sometimes giving a visual voice to people who don’t have a really strong voice in different societies.

What’s the value of public art, or, can it even be quantified?

People are attempting to quantify it, and you could quantify it financially, but then, I think more important than that, it has an impact on people in another way. It beautifies areas and makes them safer. In underprivileged schools, there’s been statistics about introducing murals in schools and how it impacts the children. It raises attendance and lowers violence. The same thing in alleyways, here, for example, there’s going to be more traffic coming through looking at the artwork, which makes it a safer place because there are more people around. You know, when things are neglected then people care even less about them. There’s the broken window syndrome, when if something is already broken, people don’t care if another window is broken too. So it really does have an impact, people find pride in their neighborhood and their community. They want to put more energy into maintaining it and making it better. You can talk about tourist dollars, and I guess in some situations it can make some areas of town more desirable, but when done properly it can really activate a community and make them feel proud.

Kevin’s portrait of John Fredrick Hume can be found on the outbuilding of the Hume Hotel, in the alley behind the hotel.

Interviewer: Ingrid Love – 2019

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