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‘Motherland’ mural a beacon of hope for North Shore’s homeless
A colourful homage to multiculturalism was unveiled this week on the side of the North Shore Lookout Shelter on West Second Street.
The 100-foot-wide “Word to Your Motherland” mural is a collaboration between four internationally-acclaimed street artists — two from California and two from Vancouver — as well as homeless shelter residents and local youth.
All last week, the artists climbed scaffolding set up in front of the wall and painted themes of diversity that reflected the culture of their individual motherlands.
Local high school students and Lookout Shelter residents were also encouraged to artistically express their own life experiences within the mural.
“The people that live here are the ones that are going to be driving past it every day, so we wanted them to really tell us what they wanted to see,” Nisha Sembi, a California-based visual artist, told The Outlook amidst a downpour at the mural site last Saturday.
Transforming the once-unsightly wall into a work of art was the brainchild of Kate Declerck, executive director of Creativa International, a Vancouver-based, not-for-profit arts organization. She applied for a City of North Vancouver arts grant, which funded the project, and connected the four lead artists with each other.
Including Sembi, the California contingent included artist Miguel “Bounce” Perez and filmmaker Mandeep Sethi. Meanwhile, the Vancouver contributors on the project were Haida carver and street artist Corey Bulpitt and fellow street artist Take5.
“This type of project encourages people who are in their early stages of developing aerosol graffiti techniques to seek a higher aesthetic to paint, instead of writing on the dumpster or whatever,” said Take5.
Standing back, after the paint has dried, what’s revealed is a mixture of traditional indigenous art with contemporary mediums.
“Graffiti has only been in development for the past 30 or 40 years, whereas the Haidi art that you are seeing may have been in development for thousands of years. The East Indian art maybe even longer than that. So there is a plethora of palettes,” said Take5.
For Sethi, working with the North Shore Lookout Shelter residents and staff has been an eye-opening experience.
“I think that the work they do is a large step in the direction of eradicating homelessness,” said Sethi. “They are definitely a leading example of what you can do as a homeless shelter to give back to the community without any negativity.”
Sethi was inspired by one shelter resident who spent most of the week painting alongside the artists.
“She is always talking to us about the interviews that she is going to, or the business plans that she is working on, or that ideas that she has while contributing to the mural,” said Sethi.
Lookout manager Linda Fox said shelter staff had long hoped to have a mural painted on the outside wall, which was often adorned with graffiti. The resulting artwork now serves as a beacon of hope for the North Shore’s homeless.
“That’s what this wall says — peace in the midst of a concrete shelter,” said Fox.