With an opportunity to progress the public art movement in the Canadian Prairie city of Edmonton, Kingsway Mall teamed up with Trevor Peters and Annaliza Toleda of Rustic Magic International Street Mural Festival to showcase the local community’s diversity. Considered more than a retail marketing initiative, the partnership allowed the mall to raise its social capital and build a reputation as a place to experience local culture, resident and international mural artists of all genres having transformed its upper level and brought color to over 5,000 sq. ft. of space.

In 2019, the Mural Project’s main objectives included developing a lasting partnership with Rustic Magic and creating C$50,000 worth of earned traditional media related to the initiative. Looking ahead, this project will continue this year with inclusion in the annual mural map of Edmonton and further integration into the Rustic Magic International Street Mural Festival.

Taking on the roles of curators, Peters and Toledo reached out to both emerging and established artists to represent the local arts community, resonate with all types of consumers, and create a piece of temporary artwork. Although participating artists were free to propose and explore different topics and themes of interest, Kingsway Mall offered its brand cause as a source of inspiration. As marketing manager, Bo Tarasenko explained, the project resulted in an organic representation of the brand, created by local artists in their own voice. 

“[Kingsway Mall is a public space that belongs to the public, so we wanted to give community members and artists a voice and a presence in the mall. When someone walks by one of these murals, they don’t see an advertisement; we’re not imposing any kind of message on them at all. It’s an artist speaking to them, with real paint on a wall they can touch],” he said. 

Targeting families and communities outside of its primary trade area, on the south side of the city, the mall noted that it reached locally-focused community members with proud indifference towards consumerism—many of them are supporters of the public art movement and difficult to reach via traditional marketing methods. Relying on earned traditional media and organic engagement, the team primarily leaned on major media outlets as well as the followings of Rustic Magic and the individual artists to spread awareness of the Mural Project. Since Instagram is the platform of choice for many artists and entrepreneurs, the channel became the primary digital voice of the initiative. In addition to taking video footage of the artists in-action and posting teasers and time lapses, the team conducted interviews with the participants to promote both parties.

Before the start of the project, the area would have been reserved for brand photoshoots, which featured fashion and accessories. During a time when overall traffic, on the whole, is trending down, since the pop-up of the mural gallery, the number of visitors passing through the area has increased by 5%. 

“[Over the last few years, Kingsway has evolved in many ways and grown to be more than just a traditional retail destination. With a strong focus on local entrepreneurs, the mall has paved the way for many local business owners to set up or grow their first physical stores in a mall,]” Tarasenko noted.

“[With the Mural Project, we hoped to have these communities take a second look at Kingsway Mall in a way they may not have for a long time].”

The Standout Tactic

As a result of its unique indoor location, the Kingsway Mall team scheduled painting sessions to take place during the winter months, which allowed artists to extend discounted pricing to secure work during their low season and Kingsway to pay a fair wage for their work.