Finding Inspiration With Every Blank Wall
Humanity In Art is the artistic partnership of Saskatchewan-born Lys Glassford (they/them) and BC local Lauren Semple (she/they). With a driving love and passion for big art, urban rehabilitation, and community, these queer public art advocates have been rehabilitating the blank walls of the central island for the past several years.
Humanity In Art was founded by Lys, a Nanaimo street artist, in 2013 and quickly became known for aerosol art, colourful murals, and local community improvement projects. In 2017, Humanity In Art relaunched as a new partnership with Lauren, an artist and community advocate. Together they founded Humanity in Community Foundation, dedicated to rehabilitating and adorning urban spaces with large-scale murals and public art in support of street artists and vibrant communities.
In 2018 this dynamic duo tackled the old A&B Sound building in downtown Nanaimo and transformed this unloved and unused eyesore into the Urban Art Gallery and Open Art Wall. In 2020, as the Artistic Director and Festival Producer, they brought Nanaimo’s mural festival to life in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hub City Walls brought three locally-made murals to the Arts District and an exciting new event to Vancouver Island.
Our work plays in the public realm, revealing aspects of humanity in the creator, the commissioner, and the community. In a place where grey cityscapes and derelict buildings dominate, we find ourselves drawn to restore, repurpose and placemake under-used and unloved urban spaces. Our work ranges from the context of city streets and water towers to the interior walls of homes and businesses. Often focusing on bold colours and engaging elements, each piece has a story inspired by intention and impact.
Art remains a tactile way to share our thoughts and ideas, a source of imagination and an outlet for creative energy. All art has the possibility of changing one’s thoughts, inspiring a new idea, or sparking a decision, but the impact of public art is far reaching, impacting both locals and visitors in an entire community. Big art beautifies our environments, expands our minds, and shapes our communities. We hold no grand ideas that our murals will cause some great shift in the timeline, but we have witnessed the power of public art first hand. While the compliments and criticism come quick, the slow, sustained drip of colour, curiosity, and creativity continues to uplift and enliven our neighborhoods.
The mediums in our work often come from practicality and context. While we love to explore and play, our ever-changing canvases come with unique needs: Montana spray paint for exterior work, oil paints for metal, acrylic fluids and pigments for interior work. And a touch of metallic, more often than not. Our other areas of expression include mixed media, sculpting, and digital design.