When you spend the years that I have in communities on giant walls, in back alleys and streets around the world, the stories that are collected are numerous in number and heartstring pulling.
Mural Art is how we taught communities since humans began. It is especially interesting to me that the scaffolding became the gathering spot or the camp fire that was the place to return to and the place where knowledge was exchanges, lives were forever connected and healing could be begin.
One of the most powerful events happened in an empty parking lot in Merritt, BC. A man named James would visit the mural wall everyday. He would sit and share his stories. He would pull out of his backpack these rolled up paintings and images that he told me were of his time in the residential schools in Kamloops.
I would listen and buy him tea and a sandwich and we would talk art, culture and how he dreamed of being a full time artist. James struggled with his life, he would numb his pain in ways that were hard on him. But his art arrow was always true and blue. The images still haunt me, the scenes he created were sad.
One day he said to me, Can I paint something with you? Can I paint one of the garbage cans like the crew are painting. How can I be part of the crew?” I said to him easy..pick up a brush and paint.
The image he created was powerful and wonderful. James was a good friend of mine. He brought life to the murals in Merritt. He brought his stories , his humour and all the love of the arts that any artist holds in the palm of their hands. His pain brought healing and helped the crew learn about the residential school time. He showed how art can heal and that by sitting on scaffolding in the hot sun, can burn like a fire. A fire of healing connection. Thank you James for your art and your stories.. May you now rest in peace knowing those children are not being freed. The stories you told and the art you did matter.