For the past two years the Signs of Hope Mini-Mural Festival has been responsible for placing hundreds of hand-painted signs bearing positive phrases all over Nanaimo, and coordinator Caleb McIntyre says those messages are needed now more than ever.
“Those messages of optimism and compassion and positivity, hope, these are the things that we need to be reminded of,” McIntyre said. “And that whole idea of Signs of Hope is to help raise your spirits when you’re having a tough day and remind yourself that other people in the community care about you even though it might seem invisible.”
Signs of Hope painting parties were put on hold this spring when COVID-19 precautions were put in place to prohibit gatherings. During that time Signs of Hope followers reached out to McIntyre and asked him to deliver painting supplies to their homes so they could host small events with people in their social bubbles.
With COVID-19 restrictions being relaxed, Signs of Hope is holding its first painting party of 2020 on July 28 at the Bowen Park lower picnic shelter. COVID-19 precautions will be in place, with painting stations spaced at least two metres apart and face mask-wearing volunteers from the Nanaimo Katimavik chapter helping sanitize brushes and ensuring people don’t have to touch shared surfaces like paint containers.
“There’s a lot of excitement about this one,” McIntyre said.
Since Signs of Hope launched in August 2018, McIntyre estimates about 300 signs have been painted and displayed around Nanaimo, including more than 80 signs made at a single event at White Sails Brewing. McIntyre said he’s managed to secure grant funding to help cover the cost of painting supplies and before COVID-19 he was invited by Nanaimo city councillors to hold a painting party during a conference of Vancouver Island municipal leaders as an example of “tactical urbanism,” or “community members taking an active role in shaping the city.”
“So much of our environment is quite stale and brutal and harsh, but when you see those little instances of colour and life, it reminds you life isn’t so bad,” he said. “There’s good stuff out there, too.”
Most significant to McIntyre is the support he’s seen from the community. He said each time they host an event they get a broader audience.
“People say exactly what I would have hoped, like … ‘Man, they really brighten my day,’ ‘They make me feel so good,’ ‘I love those things,’” McIntyre said. “And so that is really affirming and it encourages me to keep going and keep making it happen.”
WHAT’S ON … Signs of Hope Mini-Mural Festival painting party at the Bowen Park lower picnic shelter, 500 Bowen Rd., on Tuesday, July 28 at 5 p.m.