Truth about Merritt

I am sitting here thinking about the full circle of life as I make a doll for my granddaughter for her first birthday. Which is today.

I am surrounded with people who support and friends..and so many of the women that worked beside me in the projects that we worked so hard at. Building community is what women do.

Vernon was a place where an idea for a youth mural project took wing. The youth component of my mural projects was born in Sparwood. The walls there housed youth that are now parents and have gone on to incredibly successful careers. The Vernon crew are now muralists and many as well have moved onto various successful careers that have spread the hundred of youth out to all corners of the world.

The success of the Mural Projects then took me to Merritt BC. A man named Rick Passmore called me to have murals in Merritt. They wanted murals and did not have any funding. I of course said well we can share the model of funding we use in Vernon, as we are working on a BC wide Mural project and we welcome partnering with Merritt.

Susan Allen and I drove through a horrendous snow storm to meet with the group and we wrote the first grant using a youth training program that won the BC Achievement Award in 2005. The first mural was born with of course no payment and the art I donated was leveraged to get grant dollars using a model Susan and I worked tirelessly on for 6 years. That model sustained the Merritt Mural Project and was the catalyst for much of the funding that Merritt received. We trained the employees of the Mural Project Crew and the Wayfinder Loughery Arts charity that was formed was the first of its kind using mural art to train indigenous youth. Susan was never paid for that time or the use of the model we created. We saw a greater picture.. innovation and community building.

Many murals later and exciting things like the plaques being given to Michelle at one of the award show dinners by a gentleman who just loved the Wayfinder youth component. My husband and our best friend driving to Calgary to get the plaques on our dime and the excitement to help the youth and Merritt to gain tools to build community capacity for socio-economics. The stars who could see themselves in the youth and how the art saved them. The politicians who connected on an equal level with youth that when I first started working in Merritt were not allowed in stores. in fact, I had a cop stop me from walking in row with the first crew because he said we could not walk five in a row. Seriously, my funny art clothes somehow made the man think I was not citizen enough. The crew grew to have pride that they were part of something, the paint clothes became their armour in what can be a hard place to grow up. Some of the people that were on the organizing group would say they had never talked to those kids before. The mural project became a way for walls to come down and fear to subside. The youth and people that live in the space that many don’t see were connected. The president would stop by, as would Sklaw and the elders and the aunties. And the thread was always to share their art, stories and a coffee. This was a duplicate of the Vernon Mural success and it shows the model would work in communities of many sizes. The stars embraces the youth side of the project. Trust me those stars faces are in some of the biggest centres in the world, a small town is not prime real estate, but they lent their image anyway and took the time to meet with the crews. And now years after the initial Walk of Stars folded in 2015, a new group is claiming they own copyright. This is more than not true, it is really shitty of them. They are wrong and the sad thing is that they do not understand the harm they are doing.

The creative economy is happening. Digital and creative art is the new lumber. Why is copyright so important? because the right to the authorship of the work is Canadian law. Because the arts is photos, and films and stories and crafts and paint and murals and song…this is the new industry. Artists make their living off the licensing of their art. No we won’t trade beads for property. No those that have will not take ownership of something that lines the pockets of those that did not toil in 42 degree weather and burn scars on their retinas building assets for a town that now treats the ones that went over an above to give them an economy. I commissioned those murals myself and the donation was leveraged as a line item in the grants that were acquired. I stand that I put the copyright symbol on them and that although they were to be used to promote the town the integrity of the art and the personality rights of the stars is under the protection of my moral rights.

How will the musicians feel about an organization and town that make false claims in an industry that is based on intellectual Property and licensing. Copyright is a protection so that artists can make a fair living.

The murals were meant to be used for promotion, but the stars and I have moral rights to who we associate with. This is not being respected. I came last year and on my own dime cleaned up the CIBC mural with support from the building owner, I then cleaned up the food bank mural on my dime and engaged to get another one done. Grant dollars still come in using the leveraging of the murals and although I never thought I would get a handprint like all the other artists, I never dreamed I would be kicked in the face like I have been by a select few who are making claims on those rights. The story of the murals will continue to be the most important part of the project. The people who worked in the heat and the dirt. The people between the cities and the systems are those that were the silent supporters of the murals. The place we came to at ten pm in the dark. The safe place.

and those that know the truth

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