Nicole Crouch truly understands the value of community art and her most recent collaborative piece in downtown Courtenay is a true representation of partnership and community.
Crouch is an artist and facilitator for the Eureka Support Society – an organization that supports adults living with mental illness in the Comox Valley.
With the assistance of about 10 pieces of art created by clients of the society, she recently completed a mural on the east-facing wall of the building at 280 4th Street. The piece, which took a few months to complete, was inspired by what the organization represents, she notes.
“The initial design was looking at what is Eureka? It is open but protected, just like a bay (on the mural). I learned a lot from being there. There’s access, a sense of familiarity and home in a downtown space.”
Crouch has been working with the organization since 2015, facilitating a weekly art group. Throughout the years, the organization had been talking about doing a mural. When she got the green light to proceed, Crouch asked the group who would be willing to submit pieces for the collaborative piece.
“We have a lot of landscape pieces in our group of about eight people. Our core group is five or six, but people can come in as they choose. There’s just so much support for each other – it’s a really safe space.”
With about 10 pieces to work with, Crouch used either the design or colours from the submitted art to begin shaping the mural. She taped off the wall to initially create the design and worked with the artists as the mural took shape.
“I didn’t really have an image for how it was going to go – I took so much time to make sure the composition was right. We would look at the wood in one zone (of the mural) or the fern or Alder texture. People would go ahead and make it their own. I loved it. As I was painting, I was always thinking about the folks in the group, and I would go back to their shape work; it was a real group effort.”
Crouch believes her experience with collaborative work dates back to her dad, who was an art teacher at Highland Secondary School and saw the power of art created by a group.
So far, the reaction to the piece, which overlooks the parking lot of Gladstone Brewing, “has been amazing.”
During the process of painting, Crouch says so many people stopped to watch the transformation of the wall, from curious onlookers to people walking by.
“I was especially pleased by those moments and to be a part of that.”
For more information about Eureka, its services and hours, visit the Facebook page, or call 250-334-4035.