VIU to unveil 300-tile mural painted by community members

Artist and VIU Visual Art graduate Joe Lyons spearheaded the creation of a new mural at the Nanaimo campus. || Vancouver Island University photo.
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A campus community mural project first envisioned in 2019 will officially be unveiled at Vancouver Island University (VIU) as part of the kickoff to this year’s annual, multi-day event known as WorldVIU Days.

WorldVIU Days, to be held Nov. 1–5, explores how culture influences the way people make sense of the world. It is one of two major global engagement weeks at VIU, the other one being Global Citizens Week in February.

“WorldVIU Days is about fostering positive intercultural interactions and ensuring that everyone feels they belong at this campus,” said Mackenzie Sillem, WorldVIU Days coordinator and faculty in the Department of International Education. “It’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion.”

The mural is the brainchild of 2020 Visual Art graduate Joe Lyons. It is made up of more than 300 tiles, each individually painted by students, employees and community members, woven together by Lyons to spell out VIU.

Originally the mural was planned to be unveiled at WorldVIU Days 2020, prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, but the event was virtual. This year’s event will see a hybrid of virtual and in-person events, according to Sillem. In-person activities will include an official noon-hour, kick-off event on the first day, where the mural will be officially unveiled.

“The mural is emblematic of the values of WorldVIU Days,” said Darrell Harvey, VIU’s manager of gobal engagement. “An array of tiles and people were involved, and a whole bunch of different perspectives are reflected as a result.”

Initial funding for the mural project came primarily from VIU’s International Education Office, along with self-funding by Lyons, according to Harvey. The project was helped to completion with additional funding from VIU’s World University Service of Canada (WUSC), a campus-based student group that helps support student refugees in their integration into Canadian social and academic life.

“The mural is about being inclusive and celebrating people from different walks of life and different backgrounds,” said Lyons, who came to VIU from the U.S. “We all come from different places in so many senses, but we’re all involved at VIU.”

The mural is located outside of the library (Building 305), to the right of the yellow Friendship Bench. Lyons hopes it will help people feel a deeper sense of connection with their fellow humans.

“We are all connected as human beings, and we all have the same basic wants, needs and desires,” he said. “I’m so much better off from doing this work because it allowed me to experience my community at VIU in such a complex and rich way. I want it to mean something to my VIU people because they mean a lot to me.”

Other in-person events during this year’s WorldVIU Days include live outdoor music and the return of the Intercultural Hip Hop Forum, which explores identity, culture and community-building through hip hop. It features workshops, performances and a panel discussion.

As well, WUSC will be hosting an event “that is essentially a simulation of the refugee experience,” said Harvey. “It takes people through the experience of having to flee a country and the different choices they have to make along the way.”

All events during WorldVIU Days are open to the public unless specifically stated otherwise, according to VIU.

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