Former graffiti artist, David “TheKidBelo” Brunning has been a 17th Ave staple for the past decade. Creating art for over 20 years, David has, until recently, lived and worked just off 17th Ave. Whether designing brands for Le Hvy Styl Est and Death Defeated, creating graffiti abstraction or collaborating with other local artists, the motto at Studio 302 was ‘always create’. You’ve likely spotted him along the Ave where over the years, he drew inspiration and appreciation from the community around him.
We caught up with David before his big move to Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, as he reflected on his life as a professional artist, his love for the 17th Ave community, and what inspired him to explore the new and unknown.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I enjoy creating. I enjoy people. I enjoy stories. I enjoy culture. I enjoy diversity. I enjoy growth. I enjoy the pulse of a city and also, the easy breath of nature. I enjoy the questions this life holds and the ever present pursuit of knowledge and experience to discover truth. Oh, and I like coffee.
What was it about Calgary that inspired and fuelled your art?
When I made the move from Edmonton nearly 20 years ago, I had the opportunity for a fresh start. Not knowing anyone in the art scene, painting a style of art that most considered childish, a form of vandalism or otherwise unofficial and less than desirable and with Calgary being a lot more corporate than Edmonton, I knew that I had a big challenge ahead of me. Calgary became more and more like home as I forged into my field, making new pathways for my art form and other artists, alike. I am inspired by the “challenge” and Calgary presented many challenges and still does, culturally, though its grown a long way.
Formerly a graffiti artist, you’ve expanded your works into fine art. What’s that journey been like?
It’s been an absolutely incredible journey and I had no idea that I would end up where I am today! I have no formal schools of thought toward art and I still am very classically unschooled in my definitions and history, but now I am a little more well versed in the actual aspect of painting, use of light and color, materials and so forth. The actual story on the transition is too long to print, while some know it well, most would still view me as a graffiti artist. That definition suits me well, though I have started my transfer into fine art. I believe that pursuing what I love to do, with resilience, desire, total commitment and courage with a willingness to learn, is the foundation to success, in any field. Along with having some actual talent.
What is your favourite thing about the 17th Ave?
My favorite thing about 17th Ave is the accessibility for all. It’s a hot spot through the spring to fall, and it comes wonderfully alive in the summer. I truly enjoy my corner, my podium, at 7th and 17th; Analog Coffee.
Favourite place to shop on 17th Ave?
While I don’t have a favourite, I do enjoy so many places and I make sure not only to visit them, purchasing from them time to time, but also recommend them to many others. I’m more the type to peruse the strip, wander the blocks, connecting with many at restaurants and shops alike, poppin’ in with a smile and a hug. You see, 17th Ave has been in my neighbourhood for over a decade now, and it’s home to me so I want others to see and treat it as such, whether they shop, eat, drink or just hang out.
Best place for a night out, and hidden gems?
I truly enjoy UNA and UNA Takeaway so much; the Ship, once in a while, because it’s such a staple; National, when Devo or one of my friend’s is playing music; Analog always, for that perfectly situated corner sippin’ tea type spot. It’s great for conversation and meeting up. The list could go on.
What would you like to see on 17th Ave in the future?
I would love it to be more walkable, both in the summer and the winter. More parks/green space, wider sidewalks accommodated by a generous single lane road, rather than the two lanes presented now. I would like to see creative architectural layout towards its structure, beautiful murals, heat lamps in certain areas, and the ability to enjoy this close-to-the-core space. I would love to see more unique retail stores intermixed with those big box retailers. I don’t think the cost of doing business on the Ave allows for many great, creative ventures to get up and running, which in turn takes away our ability to add to the culture and presence of this unique area of the city.
You recently celebrated 10 years at Studio 302 and are making the move to New Zealand for an extended stay…tell us about that.
I left a successful position at Holt Renfrew in September of 2006 to pursue my artwork full time. This past September, I celebrated ten years of that pursuit. To mark this event, I decided to travel within the realm of a professional sabbatical, and release “Decade”, a two-part short film (Decade: Part 1 / Decade: Part 2), filmed by Nick Thomas with DDG (Deluxe Design Group), as well as the very colourful and sculptural backdrop that has hosted the creation of my paintings in Studio 302. New Zealand hosts a few people I love dearly, as well as numerous artists I’ve desired to meet, study under or create with. I am excited to see the country, to learn more of its culture, to soak up the art, stories, views and learn what comes next in my journey. See you soon, in the future, Calgary!