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Hidden oasis created at UFV

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Students in the Visual Arts 390 (Community Arts Practice) course brought beauty to the UFV community by painting two large murals on unused spaces at the Abbotsford and Chilliwack campuses.

The murals at UFV were part of a pilot project for the class to partner with the university, and bring student-designed, public art pieces to the campuses.

The Community Arts Practice course has run at UFV since 2004 under the leadership of Chris Friesen, associate professor in the visual arts department, and former president of the Abbotsford Art Council.

“They go through a process they literally would do in real life,” said Friesen. “I want students to realize that this, as a career, is possible.”

The goal of the course is to introduce students to the steps of proposing and completing a public art piece for a community organization.  

Up until this year, it has focused on bringing art to smaller locations around the Fraser Valley, in particular community organizations and inner-city schools that may not otherwise have had the means to commission large public art pieces.

Students conduct research on the location, then consider what is possible with the space, outline a budget, and put a together a project proposal. The community then fundraises money for supplies based on the student’s budget plan.

At UFV, the art proposal was presented to a panel made up of representatives from faculty, the sports department, and Student Life. The panel chose between several proposed art pieces, with the final decision being for the mountain scape at the Chilliwack campus, and the oasis mural on the Abbotsford campus.

The mountain scape was chosen to cover a large concrete wall on the old RCMP gun range that has been repurposed for recreational use. Students will use the space to hold fitness events for the community.

“Instead of having this daunting wall that was used to catch bullets, we incorporated it into the environment,” said Friesen.

Students worked with the building’s architecture, creating a mountain mural that, when viewed through Quonset Hut building, made it look as though there was a sunrise.

“We want to try to put art for a public place, not in a public place,” said Friesen.

On the Abbotsford campus, the new storage containers outside of C building were chosen for the mural.

The containers form a semi-enclosed seating area with benches that were brightly painted, with the intention of drawing people into the hidden space.  

The mural features a flower field against a bright blue sky, and an old Volkswagen van. The colours are vibrant, and a stark contrast to the surrounding storage spaces and parking lots, where students and the campus connector bus park.

“To me, it speaks a lot about the environment that we want to see, and yet it’s in a gravel parking lot,” said Friesen. “It’s not just about beautification, it’s about consequence.”

Friesen said that so far, the art on campus has been well received by students, faculty, and visitors alike. He believes this is in large part due to UFV and the Abbotsford community’s recent growth, and the increasing appetite for more social and cultural hubs on campus.

“There’s something in public art that reinforces one’s own location,” said Friesen. “It has soul, it has personality. And that’s what good art should do. It should tell you where you are.”

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