In Our Words: Rock cut art galleries? Why not?

Flin Flon’s Main ARTery project will start the beautification of the region by creating a sort of hanging gallery, with dozens of banners showing local art all the way down Main Street. Good start, but I think Flin Flon has more potential than that – though I’m not 100 per cent sure if what I’m about to suggest is legal.

We already have square kilometre after square kilometre of rock cuts around this area, quite a few of which are already full of graffiti. Some of them are quite tasteful and some of them are outright funny – the (in?)famous “Helmet and Pete” on the rock near Big Island comes to mind.

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That said, there are a few that are just… nasty. How many penises do we need on the rocks? Do we really need three between Cranberry Portage and Flin Flon? Do we even need one?

The caliber of Flin Flon’s arts community has arguably our town’s worst kept recent secret. When it comes to performing, painting, drawing, sculpting or anything else artistic, Flin Flon punches above its weight. We know that.

I think we’re just beginning to tap into how we can use our artists to make something noteworthy here. We have the ability to create art that screams “Flin Flon” more than maybe anything else.

With that said, why don’t we combine two quintessential Flin Flon things – rock art and conventional art – and give anyone heading into town a little visual treat?

Imagine driving into Flin Flon and driving through a huge tableau of the aurora borealis painted across the rock cuts near Big Island. I don’t think that would ever get old.

We could have local artists do this or even make this a contest, bringing in outside artists, acclaimed taggers, mural artists, creating a gallery on a massive scale.

Now, let’s address some concerns with that plan. I know there are people within Flin Flon who dislike rock graffiti, who find it to be an eyesore. I’m inclined to agree in some instances - especially when the imagery is inappropriate.

That said, would having murals or planned art pieces by skilled painters really be worse than someone spraying yet another F-bomb or set of genitals up there?

There’s the issue of whether all this painting would be bad for the environment. That makes sense, since spray paint canisters, like all aerosols, are harmful for the environment and compounds in the paint can sometimes run off due to weathering, erosion and all manner of conditions.

Using paints that are either low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or that don’t contain them at all could answer that. These paints don’t have the same nasty chemicals in them that some paints contain – some forms of paint even absorb VOCs.

What if there’s a small rockslide and the painting is ruined? What if some ruffian with a can of spray paint shows up and spray paints an expletive on our hypothetical Northern Lights tableau? These are all good questions, but what prevents people from doing that now? Most pieces, sans a few notable cases like the Hook Lake Pride heart, have not been painted over. It’s not like we don’t have enough space for people to tag.

And of course, there’s the big question: whether this is legal or not. Has anybody been arrested recently for spraying graffiti (barring obscenities) on a rock? Who governs that property? Sustainable Development? Highways? Is one department going to say it’s their responsibility, only for the second department to say it’s the first one’s job? I honestly don’t know.

However, I would guess that if organized through the proper channels, some sort of compromise could be worked out if necessary. After all, this would be different from teenagers spraying their names on the rocks - we’re talking about artists here.

If what I’m suggesting is out of bounds and against the law, then please burn this column after reading and leave a smart aleck comment online.

The baseline is this – we’re already using art as a way to spruce up our city. Why not go all out? Why not take a part of our landscape that isn’t that appealing and turn it into something unique, something beautiful?

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