Local artist and designer Nicole Beno, the winner of the Eby Street road-way mural competition, created Market Walk based on her interpretation of her weekly visit to the Kitchener Farmer’s Market. The mural, installed in June, was designed to last 10 years and is part of the development initiative that is part of Downtown Kitchener BIA’s strategic plan.

“We strive to tell a story about downtown and create connections to the larger community. Nicole’s Market Walk is a cultural beacon created to connect with the thousands of people across the Region visiting the Kitchener Market every Saturday,” said Linda Jutzi, executive director for the Downtown Kitchener BIA.

The project was a result of the Shape DTK initiative, which focuses on creating fun, vibrant streets where people can gather and experience their community. They aim to “engage the community through art to foster heartfelt urban experiences,” particularly in the east end of downtown.

“I wanted to create it so that every time you see it, you pick out something new,” said Beno.

Beno enjoys visiting the Kitchener Market weekly and she applied to the project because she would like to see more artwork in downtown Kitchener.

The entire process was a year in the making from application to last month when the road mural was finally laid down.

“It didn’t even occur to me that it would be going on the road, so it took a while to figure out what the best visual style could be, especially since it had to be simple. I couldn’t do really intricate designs because of the limitation and that was different because a lot of my work was actually very intricate and very textural. I also had to choose from a specific colour palette too that could be painted on the road,” Beno explained.

“I’m very curious how people will interact with it.”

Beno’s mixed media mural art could also be seen prominently on the walls of what was once Open Sesame, the art bookstore and gallery outside of Kitchener city hall that closed it’s storefront a couple of months ago.

The Objects of Desire art installation project for Lèche Vitrine is an artistic window display where every four months a new artist is asked to create a piece to be displayed outside Open Sesame. The project is a collaboration with CAFKA (Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area), made possible with the support of the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund.

Beno first found out about the project while visiting the shop and meeting the curator.

“I loved it. That was one of the first places I went to in the community when I moved to Kitchener. I was like, oh my gosh, [Open Sesame is] an art bookstore … I love this place,” she said.

With a degree in Fine Arts and a MA in Design, Beno currently divides her time between working as a graphic designer and artist. Her practice explores different ways of making through the use of various found materials.

“I’m most interested in the area where art and design meet, and blend together,” Beno said. “I borrow ideas, techniques and elements from both disciplines to create unique visuals and worlds which manifest into various forms such as illustrations, patterns, installations, graphic design and exhibitions.”

When asked about her influences, she is greatly inspired by the famous French graphic design duo Antoine & Manuel who create dreamlike, surreal universes that blend sensation, emotion, touch and visual experimentations.

“Even if I’m just making a poster, you can still really have fun with it. I love the way that graphic designers use things like play-doh to create things. I find that process really interesting. Or vice versa, when they start on a computer and then they make it look real.”

Beno has known she wanted to be an artist since she was young and always drew a lot.

“I definitely got told that maybe I should find something else or maybe teach art, or do something else, like find some way to make it practical. But it was also the only thing that was really good at. My parents were really supportive. I think mostly because I just kept sticking to it. I think it was one of those things where I just kept doing it more and more and I didn’t really want to do anything else,” Beno said.

These days, Beno is an accomplished local artist and designer whose work has been featured in Nuit Blanche, CAFKA, The Drake Hotel, TD Bank, OCAD University and the City of Kitchener.

Her fine arts background often leads her to work on projects that are situated between art and design, where she borrows ideas, techniques and elements from both disciplines to create unique visuals and worlds.

Beno feels it’s really important to her to be able to create a sense of organized chaos with her work. She described her approach to mixed media and graphic design collaging traditional graphic design elements and shapes with different textures.

“I’m interested in the way that I can transform found materials and objects onto the computer to give it new meeting and even new context. I may start with a leaf, but then maybe when I finish it on the computer I find a really interesting quality about it — I zoom in or I look closer,” she said.

“I like it when that moment happens because I think it’s interesting when I create work where you don’t know what it is right away. It’s a bit abstract, but then also people understand what it is — they’re like, I get this.”

Beno said she would love to see more conceptual work and critical artwork in the community and she is trying to re-define how we interact with art through her work.

“I’m most happy when I’m making,” she said.