It isn’t often that children are allowed to participate in public art/legal graffiti. Late last year TRIAD received a grant for a community art project to paint a shelter along a path by the sea. There are two such concrete shelters, that can be used to – well – shelter you should you be caught in a downpour while walking. Over the years they have been painted a dark brown and then a cream colour. Unfortunately, some people rather enjoy adding their ‘mark’ to these shelters and they become full of unsightly graffiti and make the town look unwelcoming and uncared for.
Our town is wonderful; it really is a beautiful place to live and to visit. But there are a few people who don’t take pride in the community and insist on destroying it for others…but that’s a grievance for another time. As I said, three of our civic-minded local artists took it upon themselves to create a more beautiful place for everyone to enjoy and to transform a graffitied shelter into a work of art.
They had the local youth club involved, as well as the odd passer-by who was walking the path and stopped with curiosity to enquire about what they were doing. The project took quite some time; and dedication as well. The project took place in the cold, dark, damp, and windy days of late November and December. I can tell you that the temperature may not be low compared to the Canadian prairies, but the sideways wind off the sea will cut you in half if it doesn’t knock you over first!
These artists fit in this project between teaching their classes, working, taking care of families, jury duty, and all their other life commitments. And they didn’t do it because they had to; they did it for their love of their community.
I had seen in a private Facebook group what they were doing and that anyone could show up on the days that someone from TRIAD would be there and add their flair to the shelter, so I just couldn’t let this opportunity pass by for the children to take part in some public art. You know they love their art!
The first day we wandered down, we were too late and Steve was packing up for the day….which was just as well as it was bitterly cold out there and we couldn’t wait to get back home! We had to wait over a week for our next chance when our schedule and theirs would mesh.
In the meantime, the children thought about what they might like to add to the shelter and painted out drafts of it so they could get their ideas approved.
Tristan wanted to paint the Titanic (which was fitting as it would have sailed right past on its way from Belfast to England), and Kallista wanted to paint a bee. So that kept them busy at home for a day or two between classes.
We went down again and set to work under Steve’s close supervision. He kept an eye on us as he painted another wall. First the kids drew out their designs on the wall in pencil (by this time, Kallista had changed her mind about what she wanted to paint; now it was going to be a kite). Tristan drew his low down just above the concrete seat, and Kallista stood up on the bench and stretched up (while I was holding her steady) to draw a kite. My job was to hold the paint tray, water jar, brushes, and steady Kallista as she stood on the bench.
Steven came over and gave Tristan a couple of pointers about how to draw and paint the Titanic, and helped fix up a little ‘oops’. I gave a little bit of a fine edge to Kallista’s kite and suggested she swing the line of it over to the adjoining wall and make it look like the girl there was holding the kite, which worked out well and gave the scene a little more flow to it.
The children came back another day to put their finishing touches on their paintings, and then they also each added an outdoor critter – Kallista painted a bee, and Tristan a hedgehog.
They returned a third time with Phil so they could show him what they had been doing while he was at work.
The ‘official’ artists worked hard at touch-ups and making sure all of the individual elements were tied together. There were incidents of people overnight coming down and purposefully wrecking parts of the project, which happened on more than one occasion. But our tireless artists fixed up the work and covered everything with several coats of varnish to help hold the beauty in place.
Now the shelter makes a statement and is much improved over the relatively newly painted cream shelter that had been defaced and felt intimidating. Hopefully by working with some of the youth in the community, there will be less defacing of this shelter and other property in the future…
This is the hope, I’m sure, but the last time we were there, there was rubbish and other paraphernalia strewn about in the shelter and around it. Left quite purposeful, which is disappointing.
This is a year of history and art for Tristan and Kallista and their part in this project was the start and nicely combined the two together. They can take pride in their work and their little piece of history into the landscape. They were able to feel a part of the community and use their talents to brighten up the day for others who walk this path by the sea.
I hope that they will be able to participate in community projects many times in their futures and make the world a better place for those around them. For every bad egg in this community there are certainly two who go above and beyond to make this a great place to live, and I want my children to gravitate towards that scene.