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Memorial Arena mural needs paint-over more than ever

CLIPPINGS FILE (COLUMN)This column was first published Nov. 3, 2010 in The Kamloops Daily News. The mural is still there, still ugly, and in worse shape than ever.

gravatarWhat was once billed as the largest graffiti mural in Canada reached its 10th anniversary earlier this year (2010). A good time for it to say goodbye.

While I’d be fine with a nice overcoat of beige latex semi-gloss, others disagree. I have some interesting debates from time to time with other members of the Graffiti Task Force — of which I’m still a member — on the future of that mural.

It came into existence not long after the creation of the task force itself, launched to fight what was then a growing graffiti problem. Then-councillor Dave Gracey, along with parks and recreation director Byron McCorkell, came up with the idea of hiring some graffiti artists to decorate the north wall of the Memorial Arena, a declared heritage building.

The concept was that if graffiti artists were allowed to express themselves in a legitimate way, it would discourage tagging. Even when the project began in the spring of 2000, it was controversial because some people saw a public building named in honour of our veterans as an inappropriate canvass.

Over time, though, it became accepted as a part of the landscape, much like a particularly ugly black velvet rendition of bulldogs playing poker might become white noise in your living room.

Dave Warriner, president of the Kamloops branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, wouldn’t be disappointed to see it go. He understands the concept of public murals and tagging but says veterans aren’t fond of the mural.

“A number of veterans who are Legion members and a number who aren’t have concerns that Memorial Arena was built to honour the veterans,” he said. “They would love to see it (the mural) changed.”

Are the veterans happy with what’s on the wall of Memorial Arena right now?

“No, they aren’t.”

A new mural, one that honours veterans, would be quite another matter. But, he pointed out, murals are expensive and the Legion doesn’t have the funds to pull it off.

Warriner and his fellow veterans don’t know it yet, but they have an ally in the man who facilitated the graffiti mural. Respected artist Vaughn Warren, who has created several pieces of public art for the city (and who, incidentally, also designed the Tournament Capital logo), says the mural isn’t sacred.

It made a huge point about graffiti being a true art form, and the five artists who created it are now “legitimate,” practising other forms of art.

“I’m not going to sit here and feed you material that denigrates the project,” he warned me. But, he added, “I think that the project has served its purpose. Murals come and go.

“If that wall was used for a different artistic pursuit I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

Warren has always hated the use of tagging to vandalize property — the objective of the Memorial Arena experiment was part of a plan to divert vandals to legitimate expression “and not go skulking about back alleys.”

The “engagement” aspect of the fight against graffiti vandalism was dropped somewhere along the way, said Warren, who served as vice chair of the Graffiti Task Force in its early days.

“I think the Graffiti Task Force is a failure. It’s just a big paint-out.”

What about a new mural honouring vets?

“Awesome. Hell yeah,” he said, his mind already working on how to best use the wall for such a project.

“It’s a beautiful huge canvas; it needs contrast….”

So, all that’s needed is money, and maybe a little nudging from City council and Parks and Rec. Anybody out there know how to fill out a grant-application form?

armchairmayor@gmail.com

About Mel Rothenburger (7217 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on Memorial Arena mural needs paint-over more than ever

  1. Cam Villeneuve // July 20, 2015 at 7:46 PM // Reply

    That thing is butt ugly. I agree, time to bring the beige latex semi-gloss. Even puke-green would be an improvement.

  2. In retrospect, that mural might not have been the best choice for Memorial Arena. However, it is representative of the times in which it was painted and as our first public mural, it holds a notable place in the evolution of public art in Kamloops. Today it looks dated and a bit worn but it is also part of our art heritage and is worthy of a restoration and a preserved place in history. The discussion about the mural shouldn’t be about the veterans; it should be about our community and our culture that the veterans helped make possible.

    • Mel Rothenburger // February 24, 2014 at 12:46 PM // Reply

      An interesting perspective. There does come a time, I suppose, when art becomes a part of our heritage just as structures do, but I still think the Memorial Arena mural was a mistake and one that should be corrected.

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