Community mural project brings wild spaces downtown

Kay Gallivan is bridging the divide between downtown and nature, one brush stroke at a time.

Through a partnership with Leadership Victoria and Power To Be, she is transforming a wall on Johnson Street into a what she calls a love letter to Vancouver Island.

“Coming back here after being away for so long, I was swept away by how beautiful this place is,” she says. “Power To Be helps people celebrate that and I am excited to be able to paint a mural that captures some of the wonder of Vancouver Island.”

The mural, set to be unveiled next week, shows a transition in landscape from city surface to wild nature and how people interact through it all. With the theme of “Everyone belongs in nature,” the project celebrates the work of Power To Be with the aim of inspiring people to explore what’s possible when they spend time outside.

Sharing that message is an opportunity borne through collaboration with Leadership Victoria. Recent graduates from the Community Leadership Development Program, Wendy Stone, Carina Foran, Ashley McKay, Breanna Merrigan, and their team coaches Rosemary Cannon andDeb Hopkins, selected Power To Be as the focus of their course project – bringing a community mural to life in the urban core. Through their efforts, partnerships were forged to secure the building space, the funding and the artist required to make the project possible.

The mural – measuring a whooping 50 by 20 feet – is located at 920 Johnson Street on a building owned by DNL Holdings. The funding is from a BC Multiculturalism Grant , with materials donated by Cloverdale Paint and Richlock Rentals and Sales. And the artist, she has a particularly unique background that makes her the perfect fit to bring this vision to life.

A multidisciplinary artist originally from Alberta, Kay divides her time between Mexico and Canada as of late. While art has long been a part of her life, murals as a canvas are relatively new. She started painting the large-scale projects two years ago and her brush (and spray can) have taken her to projects throughout B.C., Ecuador and Mexico. Her connection to murals as an art form extends far beyond her time with a brush in hand, however. She has had a role in organizing community mural painting workshops, filmed her own documentary on the subject and has organized a speaker series on the impact such projects have.

Murals are not without challenges, she notes. “It is tricky to see the whole picture and some artists don’t like working so big,” she says. “I have always really enjoyed it because you get to use your whole body in the painting process. It can be quite a workout.”

There is a lot to consider when creating a mural, from the architecture of the building to the specific shape of the wall you are working on. You also have to consider the context of where it is and who is passing by, she says.

The appeal of painting for Kay is not so far off the experience participants have while spending time in nature with Power To Be.

“Making art is good for your soul. It’s a really powerful way to pull yourself into the present,” she says. “When you really get into painting, everything else melts away. You are thinking of certain challenges and how to solve them. You don’t have time to dwell on self-doubt … it’s an activity you do in a flurry, and only afterwards do you have time to rest and think about how it went. You get completely enveloped in the process, and that can be a pretty magical feeling.”

That magic translates onto the wall as Kay first stretches out the big picture and then turns her attention to the little details that bring depth and context. This project is her first time creating a landscape mural and the inspiration hasn’t been hard to find.

“It’s a love letter to Vancouver Island,” she says. “I hope that I am communicating a real sense of movement in the piece, and when people look at it they can feel that because Power To Be is all about getting people moving.”

There is also a personal connection to the value of the work Power To Be does. Kay lived at Easter Seals Camp Horizon in Alberta for five years during her childhood, and the experience had a profound impact on her.

“I got to know how powerful outdoor pursuits can be as a technique for empowering people with disabilities or illness. Giving people rich and interesting experiences it really important work and I am really honoured to be painting something that is a tribute to that.”

The mural, located at 920 Johnson Street, will be officially unveiled Monday, June 12, 5-6 p.m. The event is open to the public.

From everyone at Power To Be, thank you to the team at Leadership Victoria for making this project happen, DNL Holdings for providing the wall space, Kay Gallivan for bringing it to life and the generous sponsors who support it (Richlock Rentals and Sales, Cloverdale Paint and Our Place).