Pool mural project “win-win”: Freethy

The City of Port Alberni is looking for more artists for its pool mural project before the application deadline on Jan. 15.

City of Port Alberni recreation programmer Karen Freethy

Echo Centre is looking to add more art to its walls—and maybe not where one would expect.

The deadline for applications for phase two of the pool mural project at Echo Pool is coming up.

“It’s a great venue for artists to showcase their skills,” said City of Port Alberni parks and recreation programmer Karen Freethy.

During phase one of the project in 2015, which is a partnership between the city and the Community Arts Council, pool murals were installed on the south wall of Echo Pool during the summer closure—with great results.

“It brings a lot of life to the place for all age groups,” said aquatic program supervisor Miki Schwarz.

“For the younger people, it brings an environment of learning, of interaction. It’s not as sterile and it has been for a very long time.”

For some of the older people who frequent the pool, the connection to the art on the walls is more personal.

“We have one lady who does aquafit and her granddaughter did one of the pieces of art,” said Schwarz.

“For her, the pride is it.”

In a community as small as Port Alberni, everyone is connected to a piece of art on the walls.

“The community knows the people who did the artwork and so they have their favourites and they still enjoy it and they still talk about it.”

Freethy agrees.

“We were hoping for a positive outcome but the result we got from the community was amazing.”

It’s a fresh face for the aging pool, Freethy added.

With the city looking to replace the aging pool when funding becomes available, Freethy said that they decided to have the artists paint on aluminum composite panels rather than on the walls themselves.

“We’re working towards the concept of a new pool so we really didn’t want to have artists paint on the walls. If the walls at some point come down, we don’t want someone to spend all that time. These are going to be lasting pieces of art.”

The artists, Freethy said, enjoyed the opportunity to have their work in a new environment and a new demographic.

“A lot of our artists feel like it’s a challenge,” said Freethy.

“They really enjoyed the idea of being a part of a community project and making their recreation centre a better place.”

It’s spurred other aesthetic improvements to the pool.

“The artwork itself was beautiful, putting the colour throughout the pool, I’ve never seen such a big change in the pool at one time.”

New, bright furniture  has been installed throughout the seating area by the pool.

Schwarz, who’s been at the pool for years, said she’s never seen so many people come out since the artwork was installed.

“People love just to come here because it has such a great atmosphere now,” said Schwarz.

“They’ll come just to look at the art, not even to swim.”

But once people come in and look around, Schwarz said that many take the plunge and become regular users of the pool.

“I’ve seen more new faces this year than I have in probably the past five years because they’ve come in and looked at this and then they’ve seen everything,” she said.

“It’s been such a good catalyst to so many things,” said Freethy of the coming together of the arts and recreation communities.

“People are ultimately swimming and recreating more and it highlights the art. It’s a win-win.”

But in order for Freethy and Schwarz’s dream of covering all four walls of the pool in bright new murals to come to fruition, they need more artists.

“It’s wonderful to see and highlight so many of the local artists here. We know there’s more in the woodwork so we’re hoping to bring them forward and encourage them to come out.”

The deadline for phase two of the pool mural project is Friday, Jan. 15 at 4 p.m.

The murals will be made out of aluminum composite panels and all materials will be supplied.

For more information and to pick up an application package, drop by Echo Centre or the Rollin Art Centre or call 250-724-3412.

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