Brantford, Ont., to honour hometown comedy legend Phil Hartman with mural

WARNING: This story mentions intimate partner violence and suicide.

The city of Brantford, Ont., has put the call out for an artist to design and create a mural honouring the comedian and actor Phil Hartman.

Hartman, who was born in Brantford in 1948, is best known for his eight seasons as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, along with his work on The Simpsons, NewsRadio and the PeeWee Herman Show.

WATCH | Phil Hartman takes CBC on the set of NewsRadio in 1998:

The mural will cover a large empty wall on the exterior of the city's Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts building. The city is accepting design submissions from artists now, with the plan to have a mural installed in September and unveiled in October.

Adrienne Briggs, arts and culture coordinator for the city, said she'd long thought the empty wall would be perfect for a mural. Through conversations with city council, she said, a tribute to Hartman seemed appropriate.

"His memory is like a legacy to the city, and we want to celebrate that," she said. "Watching someone from a small town shine on the big screen in Hollywood was amazing and resonated with a lot of people."

FILE - The cast of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" pose on the show's set in New York, Sept. 22, 1992. From left, front row; Chris Farley, Al Franken and Melanie Hutsell. In middle row, from left: Chris Rock, Julia Sweeney, Dana Carvey and Rob Schneider. In back row, from left: Adam Sandler, David Spade, Ellen Cleghorne, Kevin Nealon, Phil Hartman and Tim Meadows. Sandler will be honored by a host of comedic and entertainment royalty Sunday, March 19, 2023, as he receives the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. (AP Photo/Justin Sutcliffe, File)
Phil Hartman, top row, second from the right, was a member of Saturday Night Live from 1986 to 1994. Here, he's pictured with the show's cast in 1992. (AP)

The city is taking submissions until July 22. Mural Routes, a member-based not-for-profit arts service organization, is leading the two-stage selection process.

Three artists will be short-listed, and receive $750 each for their designs, before the winning artist is selected. That artist will receive $70,000 to complete the project, Briggs said. That money will cover the artist's fees, but also production costs, materials, equipment rental, installation, and other professional services.

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The grey stucco exterior of the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts will provide the winning artist with approximately 2,717 sqare feet with which to pay tribute to Phil Hartman's life. (City of Brantford)

The city is looking for a design that will represent a "collage or mosaic of his life," Briggs said. The winning artist will consult with community stakeholders to ensure Hartman's life is properly represented, she said, before work begins.

Hartman's siblings are consultants for project

Hartman grew up in Brantford, but his family moved to the United States when he was 10, ultimately ending up in California where he became a graphic designer for album covers, and eventually got into comedy and acting.

WATCH | Brantford natives Phil Hartman and Wayne Gretzky on SNL in 1989:

Hartman died tragically in 1998, at the age of 49. His wife killed him after a domestic dispute. She died by suicide shortly after.

Nova Vita, a local resource centre for domestic abuse victims, will also consult on the mural, Briggs said.

Hartman's brother, Paul Hartmann — Phil dropped the second 'n' when he entered show business — says his brother was a talented performer and warm, caring brother.

"You can't measure the loss of somebody like him in a family," he said in an interview with CBC Hamilton.

The induction of late comedian Phil Hartman, at right in the 1996 film Jingle All the Way, is marked by his brother Paul.
Phil Hartman, at right in the 1996 film Jingle All the Way, was awarded a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in 2012. His brother Paul, who is a consultant on the Brantford mural project, accepted the honour on Phil's behalf. (Chris Young/Canadian Press/Getty Images)

Hartmann and his sisters are also consultants in the mural project.

"I'm ecstatic about any celebration of Phil's life," he said. "I really want Brantford to name a street after him. I think he deserves it."


For anyone affected by family or intimate partner violence, there is support available through crisis lines and local support services. If you're in immediate danger or fear for safety or that of others around you, please call 911.