Port Alberni’s public health office has been brightened up with a series of murals painted by local high school students.
The murals are a collaboration between Island Health and Anne Ostwald’s Grade 11 and 12 art class from Alberni District Secondary School. The paintings will be hung up along the alleyway that leads to Island Health’s Child, Youth and Family Health Unit at 4201 Sixth Avenue. The public health unit has been in a temporary space for the last year and a half as the permanent building undergoes renovations.
“This is our office space where we service parents, caregivers and young children,” explained Kaley Ruel, School Health Promotion Specialist with Island Health. “It’s just been a really uninviting atmosphere. We really wanted to brighten it up and make it more inviting.”
Ruel describes the temporary space as “notoriously confusing.” Parents and their young children have to walk down a narrow alleyway to get to the door, often times having to be redirected. Ruel hopes the artwork will become a “welcoming beacon” for service recipients.
“We will now be able to say, ‘Follow the bright murals and make a left!’” she said.
The murals follow three main themes: nutrition, early learning opportunities and protection from trauma. Each mural will also include a plaque with a description from the artist.
“Anne’s art class rose to the occasion,” said Ruel. “They did an awesome job in capturing these aspects.”
The murals are diverse in style and subject, with students painting everything from abstract art to landscapes. Grade 11 student Madi Duncan even painted a portrait of actor and jazz musician Jeff Goldblum.
Grade 12 student Emma Audet depicted a butterfly, giving service recipients something “uplifting and hopeful” to look at.
“I chose to represent freedom,” she explained, “and a feeling of flying.”
Another Grade 12 student, Sacred Brown-Collicott, portrayed a woman and her daughter embracing. The painting also includes elements of First Nations-style artwork. “It’s about telling your own story,” she said. “But also it’s about feeling safe.”
Island Health is hoping that the public health office will move to its permanent location within the next year, but the murals will also be moving.
“We’re planning to take the art with us wherever we go,” said Ruel.