The Vernon Public Art Galley has asked for financial help from the city to help unmask a project.
Behind The Mask is currently an exhibition from Calgary artist Katie Green on display at the gallery until July, and the gallery is hoping to enlarge some of her work to place as murals on select walls owned by the city and by private business.
Green has been working with the gallery’s engagement curator and the Harm Reduction Program Coordinator at Turning Points Collaborative Society to lead participants through a series of workshops where masks and characters were created through an intimate story-telling process.
After the workshop, participants were photographed wearing their masks in a setting of their choosing.
A QR code will accompany the mural where a person can scan the code and get the story ‘Behind The Mask.’
“During COVID, it became apparent what an impact it was having on mental health,” said gallery executive Dauna Kennedy Grant, who presented on the project at council’s regular meeting Monday, May 30. “We wanted to try and find a way to deal with the topic in creative and visual ways.”
Green did a similar project in Calgary called Bridge, where her photos of masked subjects and topics were placed on the city’s bridges.
Kennedy Grant said the gallery has received $55,500 in grant funding for the project, and asked the city for another $33,000 which would come from the city’s Arts and Culture reserve ($20,982) and from the prior year’s uncommitted, unexpended budget reserve ($12,018).
A total of 11 murals have been proposed to be put around Vernon, including on city-owned property at the downtown parkade (three), the washroom building at the new Civic Memorial Park (former Vernon Civic Arena site) and on the side of the downtown washroom at Coldstream Avenue and 35th Street.
Private businesses that have expressed interest in putting up a mural include Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services (4400 block, 27th Street); Vernon Community Arts Centre (Polson Park); Bosman Accounting (two murals, 290o block 31st Avenue); Upper Room Mission (3400 block 27th Avenue); and the Turning Points Collaborative Society (2800 block 33rd Street).
The murals are proposed to be placed on the buildings for five years.
Council approved the funding request by a motion of 5-1 with Coun. Scott Anderson opposed, and Coun. Kari Gares absent from the meeting.
Anderson felt, in this particular case, public consultation on the murals should have taken place.
“Since our citizens have to live with it for the next five years, we should see if there is consensus or if a majority of the folks like the murals,” he said. “Let’s put it out there and get some real feedback.”
Coun. Kelly Fehr praised Kennedy Grant and the gallery for the work they’ve done on the project.
“They covered all the bases, and I like the art,” he said.
Coun. Brian Quiring motioned to contact the Downtown Vernon Association and ask about including this project in the joint Mural Maintenance Fund to help look after and maintain the murals on city-owned buildings. The motion passed 4-2 with Anderson and Coun. Akbal Mund opposed.
The gallery has a fund available for private buildings to help with maintenance costs.