Kevin lives and works in Montreal, Canada. Ledo finished his studies of Illustration and Design at Dawson College in 1999, and since then his artistic practice has crossed back and forth through the boundaries of mural, street art, fine art, and art installation.
Ledo grew up in a mix of urban and ethnic cultures in Montreal, raised by Portuguese parents from the Azores Islands. While art and painting have always been part of his life, his artistic practice officially started in 2005. Since then, his work has given him the opportunity to live in other regions such as Taiwan, Vancouver, Costa Rica, Guatemala and China.
Kevin Ledo has been featured in many art media outlets such as Juxtapoz Magazine, Street Art News, My Modern Met, Artist a Day, Montana Cans blog, and Cool Hunting. As well, his work has been written about and featured on television and in multiple news outlets including LA Times, The Guardian, National Geographic, Yahoo! News, Washington Times, The National Post, Toronto Star, La Presse, CBC The National, CBC Arts, CBC Radio1, Global News, CTV News, The Globe and Mail, The Montreal Gazette, Cult MTL and more.
Montreal-based artist Kevin Ledo is known throughout Canada and the world for his breathtaking large-scale portraits. Though he has the opportunity to paint and travel internationally, as a muralist, Kevin spends a good portion of his trips in alleyways and parking lots. While he was painting for the 2019 Nelson International Mural Festival, we convinced him to give us a quick exclusive about his artistic career.
What are a few of the places your art has taken you? Has living and working as an artist taken you anywhere unexpected?
Kevin: Yes. It has taken me to a lot of unexpected places. Probably the most exotic, crazy place was the kingdom of Bhutan because it’s really hard to get a visa to go there. I have paintings and murals in Asia: China, Thailand, and Taiwan. Recently, the last couple years I’ve done stuff in Europe, and then, I don’t have anything in Africa, but in the Americas, across Canada, the US and Central America, and I did a couple in Brazil. I’ve always loved traveling. So, when I first started, I was just painting while I was travelling. Now I’m travelling to paint.
Is there anything that stood out during your visit to Nelson?
Kevin: It’s fucking gorgeous! Uh, it’s, ABSOLUTELY gorgeous. It’s so beautiful here, and the people really seem like, my kind of vibe. I think it’s a town I really like. I’d love to spend more time here, if not this trip then another time. People who like arts, culture, good food, and good coffee, are my kind of people. But, the landscape. I mean, I’ve only been painting in this parking lot mostly, and I didn’t get to see too much yet, but I did go down to the water and it’s just beautiful. I love being in the mountains by water.
As a muralist, you create artworks that become a part of the community they are created in. From an artist’s perspective, what impact can public artworks have on a community?
Kevin: The impacts are varying. In the worst-case scenario, I’m used as a tool of gentrification. In the best-case scenario, I do something that the community is proud of and can call their own. I like to do things which, as best I can, are relatable to the community. I always try to consider the community and whenever I can, I choose to paint somebody who is local. If I can, I’ll photograph them myself. I always have an underlying message in most of my work, a little bit less with this one because this piece in particular that I did in Nelson is a commission, but most of my work has a theme of celebrating diversity, inclusiveness, and sometimes giving a visual voice to people who don’t have a really strong voice in different societies.
What’s the value of public art, or, can it even be quantified?
Kevin: People are attempting to quantify it, and you could quantify it financially, but then, I think more important than that, it has an impact on people in another way. It beautifies areas and makes them safer. In underprivileged schools, there’s been statistics about introducing murals in schools and how it impacts the children. It raises attendance and lowers violence. The same thing in alleyways, here, for example, there’s going to be more traffic coming through looking at the artwork, which makes it a safer place because there are more people around. You know, when things are neglected then people care even less about them, There’s the broken window syndrome, when if something is already broken people don’t care if another window is broken too. So it really does have an impact, people find pride in their neighborhood and their community. They want to put more energy into maintaining it and making it better. You can talk about tourist dollars, and I guess in some situations it can make some areas of town more desirable, but when done properly it can really activate a community and make them feel proud.
Kevin’s portrait of John Fredrick Hume can be found on the outbuilding of the Hume Hotel, in the alley behind the hotel.