The first strokes of paint are on and it looks to be a long summer ahead for a group of local youths.
The group of artists started the new Seaton tunnel mural splash Tuesday, where the Seaton Street underpass ducks below the Trans Canada Highway. It’s a joint project started by Saanich Police’s community engagement division and the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. The artists are rich in indigenous heritage, and the mural design, which flows along a wall more than 13 feet high and 50 feet long, combines a piece from each artist.
“In the graffiti subculture, it is an unwritten rule that taggers do not tag over a mural or design that someone has created,” said Saanich Police Const. Lisa Bruschetta, who helped initiate the project. “While murals are not immune to the vandalism, muralists tend to be the most respected within their community and a great deal of taggers respect the artist.”
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Collectively, the mural is a dedication to reconciliation. This is fitting, as Canada’s 150th birthday has come and gone, and in its wake is the reality of truth and reconciliation, said 22-year-old Sionainn Phillips, a local interdisciplinary artist with the project.
“We’re trying to create something that speaks to the entire community, both indigenous and non-indigenous,” Phillips said. “This is about moving forward and… making things work now. We’re at a different time now, it’s got to be something completely different, bringing tradition into the modern [era].”
Among the piece’s many features is a residential school to recognize those who attended them.
Co-ordinating the art and execution is Jesse Campbell, a local mural painter who’s worked on several projects around town such as the second and third phase of the Unity Wall along the Ogden Point breakwater and the Rock Bay mural along Government and Pembroke.
Campbell credits Bruschetta for starting the project and Victoria Native Friendship Centre youth worker Kim Rumley for suggesting the theme of reconciliation.
“Reconciliation affects all of us, it affects how we interact,” Campbell said.
For 17-year-old Tyrone Charlie of Fernwood, it’s an opportunity to connect with his Ahousaht First Nation heritage.
“It’s my first mural, it’s going well so far,” Charlie said.
Also working on the project are Wilson Tutube (Uclulet First Nation), Mekayla Whitney (Duck Lake Cree) and Michael Serroul (St’át’imc First Nation).