Bayview Elementary School student Alex Wolfe

Community inspires student mural

Bayview Elementary unveils massive mural on Wednesday afternoon.

Over the last four months the students at Bayview Elementary School have been busy creating a community-sized work of art.

The kindergarten to Grade 7 students have been painting, drawing and constructing a massive mural under the instruction of Nanaimo Art Gallery art education coordinator and muralist Yvonne Vander Kooi.

Tomorrow (March 18) at 1:30 p.m. the students and staff at Bayview Elementary School will be holding an official ceremony where they will unveil a large and colourful mural, titled Circles of Belonging, installed at the front of the school.

The ceremony will include a ribbon cutting, shawl dancing and fry bread.

“It has been a great exploration,” Vander Kooi said. “[The kids] are so excited about it.”

In order to reach tomorrow’s unveiling, Vander Kooi spent countless hours a week guiding the kids through a number of workshops that focused more on creating smaller works of art, such as self-portraits, using everything from watercolours to chalk to pastels.

“The idea was to generate images to give them an experience of art making and expose them to different mediums,” Vander Kooi said.

After creating smaller works, the students then decided that they wanted Circles of Belonging to represent not just their school but also the community as a whole.

“It’s really important to talk about this land and the history of this land and the stories that make it rich,” she said. “A lot of the students here are First Nations. They have a lot of beautiful history to share with us about how they lived and about the legends.”

The prominent feature of the mural is a canoe filled with people of different backgrounds.

Vander Kooi said the students selected the canoe because of its past and present symbolism.

“The canoe represents so much in everyone’s life,” she said. “Especially First Nations, but even the rest of the population as its used as a mode of transportation and for recreation. It is kind of the iconic symbol for past and present in a lot of ways.”

The mural project has largely been a community effort, with grant money provided by ArtsStart Vancouver and supplies provided by local retailers such as Windsor Plywood and Iron Oxide Art Supplies.

Vander Kooi said the mural has brought so many people together and is not only a source of pride for the children and staff, but for the whole community.

“When you engage in this kind of project you bring people together,” she said. “The people, and especially the children, take pride in what they’ve done and they get to share that and celebrate that with the community and I think that is really meaningful and important for basic community building.”

Circles of Belonging will be unveiled tomorrow (March 18)at Bayview Elementary School, 140 View St. at 1:30 p.m.

For more information, please e-mail yvonne.birdstudio@gmail.com.

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