Kamloops mural employment program a picture of success

By Vanessa Ybarra
October 11, 2017 - 5:33pm Updated: October 11, 2017 - 6:19pm

KAMLOOPS — Murals are seen as a way to brighten up city streets while at the same time warding off graffiti and loitering in an area.

The Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association has been partnering with the Province since 2010 to continue to add more murals to Kamloops' downtown core.

On Wednesday a special tour was held to showcase this year's murals that are hoped to not only liven up the city,  but also reduce poverty.

It was an alley artwalk Wednesday afternoon.

Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson, as well as city officials and other community members got an up-close look at the newest murals throughout the downtown, including one at the corner of Victoria and Third.

"The Leland Hotel used to sit on this piece of property until it burned down so it's a historical mural in a way but done in such a contemporary and different manner," said Gay Pooler, general manager of Downtown Kamloops.

Every year three new murals, including one behind Mittz Kitchen, are painted throughout the city as part of the KCBIA's Back Alley Art Galley Job Creation Partnership Project.

There are now 24 showcased.

"We wanted people to enjoy walking down our alleys and enjoying less graffiti but it's grown from that in that it's really become a tourist attraction," added Pooler.

The program that's funded by the provincial government, not only gives local artists such as Alexx Freehander a chance to showcase their work, it also provides job opportunities for people like Shannon Gibson, who is currently struggling to find work as an administrative assistant.

"I haven't done art since high school so it's really opened up my crafty side," said Gibson.

"If you can do practical things on the ground that actually help people make their lives better that's a pretty good thing to do and that's this kind of project," said Simpson. "We have a lot of opportunities to do things like this in Kamloops and around the province."

Along with an esthetic improvement, Mayor-Elect Ken Christian says he's noticed a reduction  in vandalism and loitering since the program began.

"For a time alleys weren't a place where you really wanted to be but I think this combination of commerce and art is a really good blend," said Christian. "It's breathing life into the back alleys and I look forward to the project continuing block by block."

Those blocks expected to be a lot brighter in the years to come. 

KFR encourages emergency preparation during Fire Prevention Week