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BEHIND THE SCENES: World renowned Cambridge bear mural disappears under green paint

CambridgeToday reporter Joe McGinty takes us behind the scenes

In each “Behind the Scenes” segment, Village Media's Scott Sexsmith sits down with one of our local journalists to talk about the story behind the story.

These interviews are designed to help you better understand how our community-based reporters gather the information that lands in your local news feed. You can find more Behind the Scenes from reporter across Ontario here

Today's spotlight is on CambridgeToday's Joe McGinty, whose story 'World renowned Cambridge bear mural disappears under green paint' was published on September 26, 2023.

Here's the original story if you need to catch up:

 Over the last decade, Downtown Cambridge has become a tourist destination known for its many colourful murals and centuries old architecture. 

A few years before the pandemic, artists from around the world travelled to downtown Galt to paint impressive murals that added life to otherwise blank walls.

One of those murals, and among the most well-known, was South African artist Sonny Behan's Kicking Up Dust, a sprawling depiction of an open-jawed grizzly bear surrounded by geometric lines and draped with Indigenous inspired symbols.

It is no more. 

Fans of street art recently noticed the building's owner painted over the mural.

"My favourite mural and one that I think is one of the best in all of Waterloo region, is gone, extinct," said Juanita Metzger, organizer for Stroll Walking Tours in Cambridge. 

"The wall where 'Kicking Up Dust' used to live is now a giant ugly, green painted wall." 

There is no trace of the mural, just a green wall and a tiny bear spray painted on the wall as a tribute to the dominating mammal that used to watch over the parking lot. 

A green wall with a little tribute to the bear lives on in the place of the popular 'Kicking Up Dust' mural. Joe McGinty/ CambridgeToday

The giant mural was painted in 2017 during the Cambridge International Street Art Festival. 

Behan was on a world tour painting murals of endangered animals to raise awareness in a series of pieces called 'To The Bone.' 

This collection included murals in New York, London, Russia, Miami, Ireland, Amsterdam and South Africa. 

'Kicking Up Dust' mural in downtown Galt. Sonny Behan/

The mural lived in a parking lot that could be seen from the Old City Hall Building right off Dickson Street on the back of Cornerstone Home Interiors. 

The owner of the building could not be reached for comment about why the mural was removed. 

"The short answer is no one knows why it was painted over," Metzger said. "I get a big lump in my throat whenever I think about it being gone." 

Metzger organizes and gives tours of murals and other historically significant places in Cambridge. The bear mural has always been one of her favourites and she will miss bringing people by the big bear in Galt. 

For now, all Metzger can do is hope that the building's owner is opening the space up for another artist to splash some paint on an otherwise, dull wall. 

News of the missing mural started to circulate last week and has since created a stir on social media among not only art enthusiasts, but anyone who remembers seeing the impressive work of art.

"What a sad and unfortunate loss," wrote one fan on an Instagram post showing the empty wall on Metzger's account. That sentiment was shared by dozens more. 

"It was probably our favourite downtown mural."