The day I saw the murals started to be painted in my small rural town, I was struck by magic. As a child, community renewal was how you lived. Mine disasters have a way of weaving into your community lives as much as the coal dust weaves into your skin like abstract tattoos. I am proud of the coal in my knees.
Pushing art as a rural community plan is not for the faint of heart. The word art seems to hold a bubble around it like it is what you do in the good economic times. This is so not true. It is life. It is our economic and social structure. It is the creation and continual recreation of us all in a connected community plan. Is the patriarchal brain washed governments that hold the purse strings not understand that art is life and how every thing from highways to tourism is based on the very skills art is. ART is math, is science is nature is life.
Is this perceived as a feminine skill made to wear the right coloured apron that places the painting above the sofa that you smoke your pipe on after the suits decide what bridge gets built.
Well it is not. Our indigenous and immigrant stories are about community building, nature preserving, and people caring. This is the worlds infrastructure. Yet the bruises on my soul of the bullying that can happen by working to bring the bridge of our tax money to the very people that are the builders of community is something I will never understand. Joan of Art or Robin hood.
If the walls could talk..here they will as I reminisce about the faces and places and projects that allowed my brush to dance.
The indigo lines that connect the people and the places that I have been blessed to visit or be involved with. The stories are moments. Snippets. #stories that move my soul and sometimes make me shake my head in sadness, or look up to the blue sky in joy.
A dark night, the wall still warm from the long day of sun beating down. I turn as a voice climbs up the back of my neck. “Hello Lady.” I turn, chilled as suddenly as a winter wind that hits you in the East Kootenay winter. I see a face, gnarled with life and worn with mask like accuracy.
“Why are you painting? what are you doing here? the face asks. I answer in a calm but sing song manner, “well just painting a mural, one that is a part of helping youth find their way.” I say. My heart not so calm, and my thoughts of why I stayed so late come pounding into my head. The nights are cool, so the temptation to stay until the night is always so strong. Good friends usually stop by with coffee, and the youth sometimes come by to hang out and talk. The night is a good time to tell troubles and share coffee and music. It is the time when youth are without a place to go. The tailgate of my truck and the paint splattered kettle always ready to plug in for tea and hot chocolate and a hug.
In full spidy awareness, I tell the man, oh I am just cleaning up and I am all done for the night. “I am meeting friends for a late dinner at the hotel, and must go.” The man as most people will do when they meet the wall, starts a confession. “Well you know, I just got out of jail you know, I murdered someone, but I did my time!” I look into his hollow eyes and am speechless. Picking up my paints, I murmur, that must have been hard for you, that time.” As I walk to the building where the project was, and where I store my paints, I am startled by the man taking my tupperware container full of paints from me.
“Let me carry them he says.” I walk into the project building behind him, not knowing if it is safer to stay outside with him in the alley, or to let him put the paints into the building. I thank him. He looks at me for a long moment. He then says “It is a good thing what you do with those kids.” He walks past me standing in the doorway, tips his ball cap and walks into the night. My heart in my throat, I lock the door, and run to my truck in the dark alley. The night has stayed with me in my thoughts. The wall is a place that so many people have stopped by. But this face and the night a stranger carried my paints, has stayed with me. Not with the fear I felt, but with the question of what may have helped this man, when he was but a youth.