Murals being added to McDonald Park to bring beauty, foot traffic and security

When you think of a change room or washroom, you probably don't think big art, but that's what'll be happening late this summer at McDonald Park.

Both the park's change room and washroom will be covered in full wrap-around murals by local artist Kelly Wright. The McDonald Park Neighbourhood Association is quarterbacking the project after consulting with the community last year, says association communications director Sarah Johnstone.

"This park is used by lots of different user groups and there have been some people that have been vandalizing the buildings," she says. "We've had issues with drug usage in some of the buildings."

"I'm a parent myself and I've heard from some of the parents that they don't feel comfortable taking their children in there anymore."

The idea that art might help combat these issues isn't new, Johnstone says the idea was inspired by a couple of similar pieces in Victoria that have resulted in less vandalism. She's also hopeful the new art will help increase foot traffic, which ideally discourages unsavoury behaviour.

"It's really exciting to be part of this and to really help initiate change within a community," she says. "I know sometimes people get stuck and feel the city should do this and that, and of course they should, but there's a lot of avenues that people can take matters into their own hands."

The pair of paintings have already been designed by Wright, with a focus on nature.

"The one on the washroom building is going to feature bees," Johnstone says. "We were designated a bee city in 2017."

"The one on the change room building is going to have the Thompson River running through it with a lot of local animals around it."

Wright — whose work already adorns building walls, garage doors, a bakery and two breweries — says he was inspired by what he sees around Kamloops. It's not his first time doing local wildlife at large size; his most well-known piece is probably the grizzly bear on Seymour Street near Third Avenue.

"I'd say (the multi-animal piece) is like the bear style, with lots of colour, but it'll be many more animals," he says.

The bee piece will be more graphic, with hexagons and different styles of bees. Wright says he likes getting the chance to paint big whenever he can.

Johnstone says the plan is to unveil the art during a party in September.

"We got the Fortis B.C. Block Party Grant," she says. "One of the cool things that'll happen is on Sept. 29 we're actually going to be having a party in the park."

While it's a community party, she says the city is invited.

The bill for the project, from prepping the buildings to applying the last layer of anti-graffiti paint, is around $20,000. Johnstone says it's a community-backed project, so while the city has given its approval to the project and a grant from the arts commission, the neighbourhood association is figuring out how to fund the majority of the murals.

"We'd like to have most of the funding secured, obviously, before Kelly starts, but it is a fairly long process, he's gotta prep the buildings first and then start painting them and that's quite a bit of work," she says.

She says the group is about two-thirds of the way through securing funding, with corporate donations covering a good chunk. They're talking to more corporate sponsors, but are also looking to the community-at-large for donations through the crowdfunding website GoFundMe.

"If you use the park, if you plan to use the park, if you just support art and public art in general, we'd love to see a donation," she says. "Every dollar counts."

The GoFundMe campaign can be found HERE.

"If we get in that amazing position where we've over fundraised for the project," Johnstone says. "Then we're just going to reinvest those funds back into the park."

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