A DIVERSITY MURAL can be seen from Cliffe Avenue and Simms Street. It's located on the side of the Elks Lodge in downtown Courtenay.

A DIVERSITY MURAL can be seen from Cliffe Avenue and Simms Street. It's located on the side of the Elks Lodge in downtown Courtenay.

Comox Valley youth promote diversity with art

Art on the Wall, is a community initiative that was developed with youth from the Comox Valley aged 15 to 24

Art on the Wall, is a community initiative that was developed with youth from the Comox Valley aged 15 to 24 who are interested in art and community.

The Comox Valley Art Gallery, the Comox Valley Community Justice Centre, the Elks Lodge, the City of Courtenay and the Comox Valley Community Arts Council were partners in the project.

Over many months, the youth worked under the mentorship of artists Anh Le and Joshua Klassen to learn the process of designing, planning and installing murals.

Youth were given the opportunity to work on a collaborative and fun community project, and to hone their creative skills, gain hands-on guidance from visual arts professionals, work on developing their artistic voice, gain work experience, and work as a team.

“I had an inspiring time spending months brainstorming, dreaming, and planning with the youth involved in this project,” says instructor Josh Klassen. “It was great to witness such positive attitudes and willingness to work together.”

Working with a host of community organizations also gave them a chance to gain understanding of community service and instil and/or reinforce community pride, encourage dialogue and collaboration develop appreciation for the arts develop a sense of social engagement, provide opportunities for freedom of expression, get involved in community development and gain a sense of empowerment.

“The mural, I think, is outstanding because it is unlike any other we see in the Valley. It speaks to the possibility of difference,” says Lisa Woolman of the Elks Lodge. “What began as a casual e-mail communication developed into a dialogue between the Elks, the art gallery, the City of Courtenay and the Community Justice Centre, and the Comox Valley Community Arts Council, finally culminating in the completion of the youth mural project.

“There is much untapped opportunity in collaboration of this type in the community. It is when we speak to each other across our perceived differences that we discover the best in ourselves and in others.

“We have extraordinarily talented people of diverse backgrounds who contribute to our community in innumerable ways — and this should be celebrated.”

The mural certainly achieves its goal. The City of Courtenay, a partner in the project, says the mural is successful in many ways.

“The mural looks great and it is good to see the design and artwork of youth artists showcased in our downtown core,” says Randy Wiwchar, the City’s director of community services. “Community partners worked so well together to make this happen.”

The Diversity Mural can be seen from Cliffe Avenue and Simms Street. It is located on the side of the Elks Lodge in downtown Courtenay.

Project partners are grateful for all the community support and donations from General Paint and Cloverdale Paint. They acknowledge funding support through the City of Courtenay, the Elks Lodge, BC Arts Council and Canada-EmbraceBC.

The diversity mural is part of a larger community initiative hosted by the Comox Valley Community Justice Centre – organizing against racism and hatred.