A number of groups in the Duncan area are looking to beautify the downtown core with the creation of two large murals commemorating reconciliation with Indigenous communities.
Amanda Vance, executive director of the Cowichan Intercultural Society, spoke to Duncan’s council at its meeting on July 18 and successfully lobbied that the city give a $10,000 COVID-19 grant to help pay for a manager for the approximately $115,000 project.
She said the Nanum‘IyusTth’ele (A Meeting of Happy Hearts) project, that would see murals placed on the large concrete wall at 221 Jubilee St. facing Duncan United Church, and at 191 Station St. later this year would increase the attractiveness of downtown after the COVID-19 pandemic slowed business in the city’s core.
“We’re hoping that by putting up reconciliation murals, we’ll add some vibrancy and colour to these parts of downtown,” Vance said.
“They’ll also build on existing tourist attractions like the Totem Tour and Hul’q’umi’num signage and create a cohesive presence downtown. We’re also hoping this would just be a beginning and, while the two murals this year would be themed with reconciliation, we could do other murals with other cultures and have a multicultural mural festival over time.”
The Nanum‘IyusTth’ele project is being spearheaded by a group of organizations, including the Cowichan Intercultural Society, Cowichan Tribes, Duncan United Church, the Downtown Duncan BIA, and other community members committed to revitalizing downtown Duncan through public art in an inclusive way after the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted tourism, small businesses and Cowichan Tribes members who experienced racism during the pandemic.
Funding for the project is expected to come mainly from these groups, as well as the City of Duncan now that it has agreed to handing over the $10,000 grant.
Vance said it’s essential that a project manager be hired as it would allow the partners to explore the possibility of making the project an annual mural festival and to lay the foundation of the production of murals in the future.
Duncan Coun. Jenny Capps said the project is a perfect fit for the city’s COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant funds.
She said it demonstrates that the partners are seeking other funding for the project and being approved for it, which is one the criteria for the funding program.
“I don’t see why we wouldn’t want to be included as part of this,” Capps said.
“I think it could be a really monumental project that could be the start of a really interesting thing for downtown Duncan. It has the potential for more tourists to see these art pieces and who knows what it could grow into. It could be huge.”
But the fact that the delegation couldn’t answer what the costs would be maintain the murals over time, and who would provide the funding for it at this time concerned Coun. Garry Bruce.
“I can’t vote for this with the maintenance costs unknown,” he said.
“I think this would definitely fall on the city and I don’t think the residents would appreciate that very much.”
The motion to supply the grant passed, with only Bruce opposed.