Okanagan: Lake Country art wall prompts community discussion

They were expecting a penis.

Discussions started about how it could be incorporated into another image, worked on the wall without bastardizing the open forum concept of the space erected on the lawn out front of the Lake Country Art Gallery specifically to give the community a space to graffiti, to create public art.

“I love the discussion of what art is as a professional artist,” said Wanda Lock, an Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design grad who ran the local Opus store for over a decade.

Lock sits on the Lake Country Public Art Commission and spearheaded the initiative to establish an art wall after graffiti artists started having a “very beautiful and honest” discussion on the town’s Petro-Canada gas station wall. Illegal though it was, the text and art went back and forth, images abutting each other overnight until the town provided an artistic space.

Nothing profane has materialized.

Rather the wall has attracted submissions. Lock was sent the only text work on it by Emily Geen, a UBCO grad now doing a masters at the University of Victoria. Her lost kitten posters went up, prompting an unusual kitten theme which lead to the addition of googly eyes on the wall in a couple of locations. Another UBCO graduate, Heather Leier, sent postcards.

Local artists Rose Braun and Angelika Jager have left their mark, as has Katie Brennan.

The colours and images used seem to adapt to the surroundings.

“In the wintertime it was quite dark but now we have this colour and people have been responding to it. You can see as the seasons change, as does the colour palette of the wall,” said Lock.

When Brennan left her mark it was so cold her paint froze, but she stood out there in a spare moment, making time, not caring who might see.

Lock admits she tried to do her effort quietly, hoping people wouldn’t see her and assume it’s her wall, thus deterring their own efforts. She added pop and rock stars, then put tear-away tabs with song lyrics those attracted to the ’80s and ’90s-era artists might find fun.

Neither artist can explain why the wall they openly invite anyone and everyone to add to has remained such a clean creative space.

“It’s something I have been thinking about a lot,” said Lock. “Is it because it’s been dictated as art that it automatically has rules attached to it even though I’m trying to break down those rules and get people to just add to it?”

So successful has the effort been, the public art commission is considering adding another four-by-six piece of plywood to double the size of the space.

Raw, visceral and about as real as it gets, the wall definitely attracts the gaze of passersby, even on the relatively quiet rural road where it sits.

The lyrics of the Alanis Morissette song Hand In My Pocket she has scribed on one of her tear-away strips sum it all up: “I’m green but I’m wise,” it reads.

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