PEOPLE WERE DEFACING OUR COMMUNITY
BY LAVERNE STEWART STEWART.LAVERNE@DAILYGLEANER.COM
AUGUST 23 2012
In the heat of the mid-day, artists from St. Mary’s First Nation are creating massive mosaics under the Two Nations Crossing overpass.
Once there were swastikas, demonic symbols, racist words and other hate-filled things spray-painted there.
Angie Beek was bothered by what she saw. She suggested something needed to be done about it. Others such as Elsie Paul agreed.
“It was shameful. People were defacing our community. It was unpleasant. We have the entertainment centre here and a lot of people coming through this area and this is what they had to see. It just wasn’t nice,” said Paul.
Beek asked the St. Mary’s First Nations community planner, Allan Polchies Jr., if money could be provided for art supplies and to pay local artists. St. Mary’s First Nation has a summer program that provides funding for beautification projects. The overpass was viewed as something that needed attention, he said.
“I thought since we have great artists in the community, we should get the kids involved and do an art mural on that concrete to showcase our artists and get young people involved so they would take ownership of it so there would be no more graffiti there,” Polchies said.
St. Mary’s First Nation and St. Mary’s Entertainment Centre donated $2,000, so far, for art supplies and stipends for the artists, he said.
The money made it possible for artists April Paul, Tom Sappier and Beek to work with the community’s youths and other volunteers to paint a much better picture here. The racist graffiti has been wiped clean with a fresh coat of white paint.
When the work began, Elsie Paul said, there was a concern that someone would return to tag the walls with more graffiti. That hasn’t happened.
Over top of the clean canvass is the work of several artists. For two weeks they have been there. Using small brushes, they are painstakingly applying colourful acrylic paint to the corrugated, concrete walls. The artists are working all day and into the evening to finish.
April Paul, who teaches native art at both of the city’s high schools, said she is really enjoying this project despite having to work with carpel tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.
“We need it. I teach all of the kids around here. I am hoping when the kids see me they know not to do the graffiti here because they all respect me.”
April Paul said she expects to continue her work here over the next two weeks. Now the walls have images of a dream catcher, a canoe, turtles, arrow heads, eagles, feathers and fiddleheads which honour and represent Maliseet heritage and culture.
Sappier is working on the opposite side of the overpass. He is also using a small artist’s brush to create a massive eagle and other images. The work he is doing is all coming to him intuitively, he said.
“It’s a chance to have some fun. I think it will take me another four days.”
As they work, cars slow down and watch what they’re doing. Some drivers smile and wave. Others give a thumbs up to indicate their approval and appreciation of what’s happening. The project is being embraced by both those who live there and visitors.
“People have been dropping by with coffee and pop. They have offered to come and help us paint. They seem to like it. We are hoping that no one comes and tags over this,” said Beek.
When the murals are finished, there’s a plan to bring benches and large pots of flowers. This is reason to celebrate the creation of something beautiful, said Elsie Paul.
“Maybe we’ll have a little block party here,” she said.