The Art Of Connecting
A recent project to create a mural in the alley behind the Oasis building in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has done much more than add a little colour to the neighbourhood. It has brought people together and inspired others to do more.
To get the project started, the UBC Learning Exchange knew an artist had to be recruited. With a BA in visual arts and art history, recent UBC alum Kim Villagante was a perfect fit. “When I heard that the Learning Exchange was looking for a community artist, I jumped on it right away,” says Kim. “I liked how it was about reclaiming the alley space for the tenants and creating bonds between people who wouldn’t have otherwise connected.”
She kicked things off by setting up monthly art spaces in the housing unit so that tenants could drop in, participate in the design process, draw, or just sit and chat. As it turned out, this ongoing, longer-term investment was what really helped the project succeed.
“Tenants would drop by and I’d sketch the mural. People gave input. They wanted themes of an oasis, nature, sun, killer whales and cats, since the Oasis is full of cats,” explained Kim.
When the day came to paint the mural many residents got involved. Those who wanted to paint had the opportunity to pick up a brush while others got involved by making food, music and just hanging out. People who walked by stopped to show their appreciation and neighbourhood condo owners even asked Kim to create similar murals for them.
“I was humbled to have been a part of this project,” says Kim. “I came into it thinking I’d just be contributing my art skills, but I’m walking away with the love and stories shared with me by the tenants at the Oasis. I have a renewed respect for the real community that is so evident here in the Downtown Eastside.”