The Modern Café’s lights and neon signs have long been a bright spot in downtown Nanaimo, so things got dimmer when its owners closed to meet coronavirus social distancing standards and boarded up the front of the business with plywood.
Some of the building’s colour came back this week when an artist painted over the plywood with graffiti that read “stay strong Nanaimo.”
The slogan was adopted by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce for campaign to provide businesses with advice and information and share positive stories during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, according to Kim Smythe, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce CEO, the Modern’s street art wasn’t part of any chamber promotion and the whodunit remained a mystery for several days until Wednesday. Smythe put queries out in the business community and discovered the artist was actually one of the Modern Café’s employees before it closed.
“After the Modern closed they were all bemoaning the fact of how lousy it looked outside,” Smythe said.
Hugo Bedard, the artist behind the unsigned work, who was also a line cook at the Modern Café, said it was the restaurant’s owner Daniel Caron who came up with the idea of brightening up the front of the building.
“He just sent me a text message saying that he wanted something based on Stay Strong Nanaimo and so I just drew it up,” Bedard. “He just said that whole front, that I could work with it.
Bedard said he started doing art in high school and already had an adequate supply of paint to do the work, which took about four hours to complete on Monday.
Hugo said he hasn’t had too much feedback on the work as yet.
“Really just from friends asking me if I did it because they know I like that kind of style of art, but nothing really too crazy,” he said.
As of Wednesday, no other boarded-up buildings, aside from the Urban Art Gallery on the former A&B Sound building at Commercial Street, Terminal Avenue and Victoria Crescent, had been graced with street art.
“Maybe it will start to be a thing in town,” Smythe said.