As an artist-designer I have spent many decades of my long life decorating interior and exterior wall surfaces in urban public places in Western Canada with paint or sculptural forms. It therefore fills me with horror that, once again on Bowen Island, we are going to see this abomination of a concrete block wall, that greets everyone arriving on the ferry, undertake a makeshift treatment of beautification that is simply perpetuating a series of aesthetic errors made in the past.
First we had murals painted directly onto the concrete surface by the students from BICS, fun for the kids, but a disaster for the Cove. This was followed by a coat of disgusting brown paint and then by a number of ineffectual painted panels, which in this climate quickly deteriorated into tacky eyesores. Please don’t do it yet again!
Painted artworks in public places are urban solutions to urban problems, and are totally, totally, totally, totally inappropriate in this charming, semi-rural atmosphere of Bowen. The very word, beautification, gives me the creeps, and the only beauty in the suggestion of painted panels is that they are easily removed, period. This notion that art is a cure-all for aesthetic problems is flawed. My wife and I normally spend our summers in a lovely medieval village in the Auvergne in central France. Some years ago the mayor and council embarked on a program of beautification and, there being an exposed gable end of a building in the main street, saw it as the opportunity to encourage local artists and dolly up the place. With the help of subsidies from Brussels a giant mosaic was installed and the ancient rural character of our village was destroyed overnight. Recently the building was gutted by fire, but this was France, the stone walls were 80 centimeters thick, and the objectionable mural will be with us for the next century. All it really needed was a coat of whitewash with a small tree planted in front of it.
The only sensible and permanent solution to our problem in Snug Cove is to replace the existing concrete with a wall of local stone, on which Mother Nature and time will lovingly paint a patina of lichen and moss. It will need no maintenance for the next five hundred years or so, and it will give the highways department the chance to widen the very narrow sidewalk by a foot or so. Please, don’t do what I think you are about to do.