Gerda Hofman, a Nanaimo artist, replaces damaged and stolen images that were part of the Jean Burns Project, part of the City of Nanaimo’s temporary outdoor public art program. (KARL YU/The News Bulletin)

Damaged, stolen art replaced at Jean Burns building

Art and photos at historic building site were installed Thursday in downtown Nanaimo

Jean Burns Project volunteers have had to do beautification work on the old building site once again after pictures were damaged and stolen.

The project saw paintings and photos of the city gracing the downtown Nanaimo building site, which was gutted by fire in March 2016 and demolished this past March, but Gerda Hofman, Nanaimo artist and project organizer, said many needed replacing.

“When we put them up in the first place, we had 22 boards of archival pictures, but 15 were [destroyed or stolen],” said Hofman. “I go and have them printed at Art Prints. We still had a little in contingency funds, but that’s completely gone now.”

Hofman and volunteers installed the new images with metal bracketing on Thursday in the hopes of avoiding repeat incidents, and she doesn’t know what to do if more vandalism and theft takes place.

“We hope that these bars and screws will deter people from damaging them and stealing them,” said Hofman. “The artwork is still in good order. They seem to be going after the archival pictures unfortunately and actually, it would be unfortunate if they damage anything. Why damage things? What’s the use of that?”

Following a 2017 report from the City of Nanaimo, $45,000 was designated for more security downtown and urban cleanup, and while two security guards are patrolling the area, it is only during daytime hours and more needs to be done to prevent incidents like this from happening again, said Kevan Shaw, Victoria Crescent Association president.

“We need more people to prevent that down here,” said Shaw. “We need more people taking ownership of the downtown. All the residents, the taxpayers, the business owners, the property owners, we need them to take ownership and if they see anything happening, either phone the police or yell out – watch your own safety – but say, ‘Get away from there. Don’t do that,’ and that’s what we need. We need public involvement here … We’ve got to stop this lawlessness.”

Businesses stepped up and donated money to the project and money also came from the City of Nanaimo via its temporary outdoor public art program.

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