Learn more about controversial art project at the Vernon Public Art Gallery – Vernon News

The Vernon Public Art Gallery wants people to take a deeper look at the so-called ‘scary mask’ project.

The gallery is hosting a community consultation on the proposed Behind the Mask mural project, including viewing the proposed art to grace 10 buildings throughout downtown Vernon.

Behind the Mask is a three-part public art project in which eight Vernon people living with mental health challenges, and two local supporting professionals, express who they are and how they want the community to view them through masks — the ones they made, wrote about creating and later wore in photographs taken in settings of their choice in Vernon.

The proposed project has generated ongoing debates and two petitions have been launched, one for the project and one opposed.

“Recognizing how big of an issue mental health has become because of COVID, we wanted to create a dialogue around mental health using the visual arts as our language, and create awareness in a positive, engaging way,” says Dauna Kennedy, executive director, Vernon Public Art Gallery. “We hope people will take in the exhibit and reflect on these characters, and also each person behind these masks.”

The project participants are people with lived experience (PWLE) who came from a range of backgrounds, and were connected to Turning Points Collaborative Society.

Their journey of self- exploration and mask-making was guided by Katie Green, a renowned artist-facilitator who specializes in public art projects exploring social issues. Participants created masks through a storytelling process along with support from TPCS harm-reduction co-ordinator and the VPAG learning and community engagement co-ordinator, who also participated in the art-making.

As the project approaches its third and final phase — the installation of murals featuring the participants and their masks, VPAG has been asked by the City of Vernon to give the public an opportunity to learn more about the project and give feedback.

The Behind the Mask exhibit is now on display at the VPAG, and Vernon residents have a chance to view the art before they become the murals at 10 proposed sites.

As part of the education and consultation process, from June 21-July 5, after viewing the exhibit, guests are invited to step up to a tablet in the gallery and complete a survey.

“We hope as many people as possible will come down to the art gallery to really understand the project and take part in the public consultation process,” says Laurie Case, director of communications, Turning Points Collaborative Society. “It’s a powerful exhibit — one that showcases a diverse perspective in an important conversation about mental health. We thank the participants for creating these beautiful and vulnerable expressions of themselves, and for sharing them with the community.”

“We’ve already had a tremendous response from our community and the social services community about why it’s important to shed light on mental health issues, and we’re seeing that as people visit the exhibit, and they really learn about the people behind the masks and the uplifting intention of outcomes of this public art project, that it does give people a broad perspective,” says Kennedy, “but we have a short window to take this forward, bring it to life and have Vernon realize the many benefits to the economy, community and culture.”

The Behind the Mask community consultation is open to Vernon residents June 21-July 5, 2022, with extended gallery hours 10 am to 6 pm weekdays and 11 am – 4 pm Saturdays.

The exhibition runs until July 19,

For more information, click here.

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