Sunflowers are helping to shine a light on a dark past within our community and beyond.
Gallery Vertigo, in alliance with the Sunflower Project artist Michelle Loughery, are hosting the National Internment Art Exhibit Pause in Plight Friday, June 3.
Curated by Winnipeg visual artist Kerri Parnell, in support from the Endowment Council of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, the exhibit runs until July 29. A VIP opening reception takes place June 3 at 6 p.m.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to create the National Internment Art Exhibit, and to work with amazing people toward a common goal to expose the truth,” said Parnell. “It reminds me that history is not condemned to repeat itself. As we learn from our past may we collectively move forward in better light.”
The 17-piece art exhibit aims to inform the masses of the First World War national security fears and wartime prejudice, which led to the internment of 8,579 men, among them, women and children, identified as “enemy aliens” between 1914 and 1920. Many were imprisoned, stripped of what little wealth they had, forced to do heavy labour in Canada’s hinterlands, they were also disenfranchised and subjected to other state sanctioned censures not because of anything they had done but only because of where they had come from, who they were.
Pause in Plight is touring across Canada between 2020-2025 to help bring awareness to this historical injustice with war posters, light installation, emotional interpretation series, Old Eyes Series and To Hell with the Alien Enemy.
Loughery’s The Wayfinder Sunflower Project, was started in 2013 during the painting of the Internment Sunflower Mural in Vernon, in honour of discovering her family members were interned in Canada’s first national internment operations.
“For my immigrant grandparents, who were interned during World War One in Canada, it is only through conversations and art can we heal the social injustices of the past into wrongs made right,” said Loughery, noting the importance of this timely exhibit amid the current Ukraine crisis. “Let the sun shine on your faces knowing this important story is being heard.”