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Cultural leader

NANAIMO - Alyssa Glassford receives award for her graffiti art projects.
Alyssa Glassford is this year’s recipient of the Emerging Cultural Leader Award for the City of Nanaimo’s Culture and Heritage Awards.

The giant doe-like eyes of Snow White stare outward into the colourful landscape of Wisteria Lane in south Nanaimo.

Besides her larger-than-life figure, the Seven Dwarfs congregate on a fence, decked out in colourful attire thanks to the artistic vision of Alyssa Glassford.

“Street art has a unique ability to make people take note, especially if you use bright colours. You remember it,” said Glassford. “You see industrial buildings with a lot of colour and it cheers you up.”

Bright colours are a staple in Wisteria Lane. It’s about having fun, creating neighbourhood ownership and a sense of community. The public art project was created when concerned residents near the lane banded together to try and rid the area of drug use and prostitution.

Glassford said the murals have given people in the neighbourhood a “little sense of happiness” and some people, when they walk through the lanes, are picking up garbage. She said some of these people aren’t even residents. Art can enhance and change communities for the better, she said.

She started working on the project in the fall of 2014. It took her a year to create her murals in the lane, which includes three walls, power poles and the alleyway.

“I was driven by love. It’s a great way to contribute,” said Glassford about why she decided to join the initiative.

She’s one of several artists and community members who have contributed to the project.

Glassford has worked on numerous public art projects throughout Nanaimo. People can see her art in Wisteria Lane, Cappy Yates Park and various locations in Nanaimo’s downtown core, such as her octopus painting on Fitzwilliam St. According to the City of Nanaimo’s press release these projects have helped spur revitalization and create a sense of vibrancy and place.

“It’s so beneficial. This type of work is really well received by the businesses,” said Glassford.

Glassford said she liked art but was too impatient to hand draw or paint when she was younger. One day she found some spray paint cans in her dad’s garage and decided she was going to create something.

“It took off from there,” she said.

For her contribution and passion for the various art projects around Nanaimo, Glassford will receive the Emerging Cultural Leader Award during Nanaimo’s Culture and Heritage Awards Ceremony held April 13, 7 p.m. at the Port Theatre, presented by the City of Nanaimo and the Port Theatre Society.

“I was shocked to be chosen,” said Glassford.

Since 1998 the City of Nanaimo has given out the cultural awards to recognize the “variety of cultural activity in our community,” according to a City of Nanaimo press release. The Emerging Cultural Leader Award is meant to recognize up-and-coming cultural community leaders who live in and contribute to Nanaimo’s cultural landscape.

For more information about Glassford’s art please go to