It’s no secret that the Comox Valley is home to many talented artists, and a report by Courtenay community services director Randy Wiwchar shows the number of artists living and working in the Valley actually exceeds the national average.
There are more than 1,000 painters, sculptors, ceramic and fiber, wood, graphic and media artists and crafts persons in the Comox Valley — which is more than double the national average, according to Wiwchar, whose information came from Discover Comox Valley.
“The Comox Valley is a better place for the arts we have,” he told Courtenay council last week as he presented an update on the city’s Utility Box Painting and Youth Mural Mentorship programs.
“The City has had lengthy involvement in arts and cultural activities, including through the establishment of the Comox Valley Centre for the Arts, as well as its support of the Sid Williams Theatre and Courtenay Museum,” Wiwchar wrote in his report to council. “Courtenay has developed many partnerships within the arts community and continues to be a leader in the enhancement of arts and culture.
“As well, Courtenay has had several initiatives dealing with graffiti reduction, including the Utility Box and Youth Mural Mentorship programs. Both have been successful in reducing graffiti and at the same time have added beauty to Courtenay’s downtown.”
The Utility Box Painting Program was started in 2010 with funding from BC Hydro. Eight BC Hydro boxes were painted, with the majority completed last fall. In 2011, Telus sponsored the painting of 13 utility boxes.
Eight local artists have participated in the program, including Benjamin Dunstan, Tracy Kobus, Teresa L’Hirondelle, Jenja McIntyre, Mary-Anne Moore, Marilyn Peeters, Cory Stewart and Grace Wolff.
The Youth Mural Mentorship Program pairs established artists with teams of local youth to create murals on city property.
“The program provides a positive outlet for creative energy,” noted Wiwchar. “At least one participant has gone on to pursue art as a career.”
Past youth mural mentorship projects have included the Courtenay Riverway at Sixth Street and at 19th and 20th streets, as well as the Fifth Street Bridge underpass.
“There’s a good variety of activity, and it’s certainly helping with the graffiti problem,” said Wiwchar. “Graffiti artists have been good about not painting on (the murals).”
These programs have been jointly administered by the City of Courtenay and the Comox Valley Community Arts Council.
“The program’s been a very successful one in terms of getting the community involved, getting youth involved and getting the arts community involved,” Wiwchar told council. “The youth mural mentorship program has been a real successful one.
“We’ve had Community Justice Centre folks involved to pay off some community service. We’re hoping down the road, we can extend some of the partnerships more.”
Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard was happy to see the city working with BC Hydro and Telus.
“I’m particularly impressed to see the partnerships the City has made with BC Hydro and Telus because on our own, we wouldn’t be doing this,” she said.