Public Art Enhances our Community
by Linda Teneycke, special to SPN
Have you visited the public boat launch at the Prestige hotel lately? If not, consider dropping by for a visit. You will be pleasantly surprised to find that the once plain, cinder block electrical house has been transformed into an attractive mural. The mural depicts the many outdoor activities available around Sooke: deep sea fishing, fly fishing, surfing, kayaking, whale watching, zip lining, biking, hiking, and horseback riding.[sam id=”15″ codes=”true”]You will be even more surprised to learn that this mural was planned, drawn and painted by a half dozen students with a little help and guidance from adult artists. It not only exemplifies the skill of these young artists, but demonstrates the ability of multi-generational individuals to work together to design something that enhances our environment while developing a sense of pride and ownership. It says, “This is what we have to offer. Sooke is a fun place.”
This is a project to be proud of, not only because of the people who painted it, but because it was such a cooperative endeavor. The Sooke Fine Arts Society and Pacific Center Family Services coordinated and supervised the mural. The District of Sooke, The Rotary Club, and Sooke Fine Arts provided funds while Sooke Home Hardware and Dulux Paint donated equipment and supplies.
Public art is good for a community. This mural was designed with the community in mind, an important consideration for public art. A collaborative project like this can provide a community with the means to improve the environment and the opportunity to develop a sense of pride and ownership.
Sooke already has public art we can be proud of. There are the murals around the community center and Mom’s Café as well as the utility box photos. Other examples are: the mural at the Hope Centre; the mandala at the SEAPARC swimming pool; the mural inside and outside the Stick in the Mud; the beautiful wooden benches by Maywell at bus stops around Sooke; and the mosaic at Ed MacGregor Park to commemorate the SFAS 25th anniversary. The Arts & Beautification committee have plans that will enhance our community even more. Public art like this adds warmth and charm to a place, shows the caring of its residents, its spirit of celebration, and illustrates the community’s willingness to contribute to a beautiful environment. Community art projects make people feel included and empowered to make a difference.
We could use more public art projects that engage our community. There are many changes to Sooke these days. The new traffic circle is under construction: plans are being made for a new library, an interactive building will be built on Whiffin Spit; and the Royal Bank is under way. Here are both public and private spaces that could be enhanced by public art.
Fortunately our district is looking ahead and already realizes the benefits of public art. In looking at the District’s “Town Centre Illustrative Design Handbook,” it’s interesting to see the mention of existing public art, and the call for inclusion in buildings: “Avoid ground level blank walls. Consider unique design features (i.e. architectural elements, artistic treatment, mural, living wall) for all blank walls,” and building frontage: “New developments should provide for opportunities for the installation of art in landscaped areas and in front of buildings.” Sooke’s Parks Master Plan also calls for the District to “Partner with local artists, community members, T’Sou‐ke residents and youth to explore opportunities to support and celebrate arts and culture in Sooke’s parks and trails.” Last but not least, Sooke’s Cultural Plan, states “Long-term direction in the Plan recommends supporting creative occupations, and designing and developing public art and infrastructure that reflects and celebrates the traditions of the community including the First Nation’s culture.”
It is reassuring to know that that the District recognizes the importance of public art, how integral it is to the vision of Sooke, and how it is very much the town’s mandate to encourage and facilitate the addition of public art at every opportunity. Let’s welcome the opportunity to work as a community and consider such sites as places to create more public art. With so many talented, generous and knowledgeable people in Sooke, we have the ability to add to the community’s artistic and cultural flair. Public art not only beautifies a community; it facilitates social cohesion, attracts tourists, fosters a sense of ownership and pride, and preserves our collective memory. The mural at the public docks may be our most recent contribution to public art. Let’s add to it by willingly exploring new possibilities.