A mural planned for the entrance to Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay has been delayed due to funding, but organizers say the project is still going forward.
Port Alberni’s Arrowsmith Rotary club put out a call for artists’ proposals more than a year ago for a mural project based on the theme of reconciliation. The mural, which will be located on the large brick wall of the Canadian Maritime Engineering (CME) building located at 3101 Bird Avenue, is a partnership between the Rotary club, the City of Port Alberni, the Port Alberni Port Authority and CME.
But after receiving two proposals last year, the Arrowsmith Rotary club realized it did not have enough funding.
“The calls came back much higher than we had anticipated,” explained Arrowsmith Rotary president Terry Deakin.
Deakin now expects the project to cost approximately $49,000. The Arrowsmith Rotary has about $20,000 already, but the club is looking for some in-kind donations and fundraising to put together the rest. A fundraiser planned for March 28 at Swale Rock Cafe had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but will be rescheduled at a later date. Deakin says community businesses and organizations will also have the option to “purchase a brick” on the wall of the mural to help sponsor the project.
Deakin hopes the project can be started as early as July 1. Local artist Shayne Lloyd, who was selected to design and paint the mural, says he expects it to take about a month to complete. The wall is approximately 96 feet long by 15 feet high.
“It’s going to be a challenge because it’s not a completely flat surface,” said Lloyd. “I’ve painted a lot of murals and each surface presents its own challenges. This one is the brick work.”
Throughout the long process of planning and fundraising for the mural, the nature of the project has changed.
“The project was initiated in the spirit of reconciliation, but we are now referring to it as a ‘building relationships’ project,” Deakin explained.
Lloyd said that “reconciliation” is a word that has different meanings for different people.
“Reconciliation is all about rebuilding relationships,” he explained. “But some people feel there was never a relationship to begin with. The feedback that I got [about the word] was not really positive. I didn’t want this mural to be associated with something negative. Relationship building sounds more appropriate. It’s just a better fit for what it truly represents.”
Lloyd has been working with Nuu-chah-nulth artists Tim Paul and Gordon Dick to put together the mural because Lloyd wanted the painting to feature some “legitimate West Coast First Nation artwork.” Lloyd says the delay has been a bit of a “blessing in disguise,” as it has allowed him to refine his artwork and get some input from Tseshaht First Nation elders.
“I wanted it to be a representation of the landscape prior to colonization and industrialization,” he explained. “Tim [Paul] and I worked together as to how the mural could be interpreted as a bit of a legend. There’s some imagery that represents storytelling.”
Lloyd says he sees it as a mural for the community of Port Alberni as a whole.
“It’s definitely a community project,” he said. “It’s been a long journey, but in the end I think it’s for the best.”