"Culture is the root of our lives, and love is the most powerful force." This quote from the notebook of Mao Jomar Lanot features prominently in a 320' long, 16' high mural that covers a vast stretch of wall at Tupper Secondary. Lanot was the student killed 13 years ago by gang members around the corner of the building where the mural is now displayed. From this tragedy, the school and the neighbourhood came together to foster a greater sense of community and safety. Tupper's greenway, healing garden and school code of conduct were the result.
Three years ago, art teacher Cathy Kool had an idea. "I realized that none of our students and only a small percentage of our staff understood the history of our code of conduct - ROARS: Respect, Ownership, Attitude, Responsibility, Safety - or the significance of the greenway," said Kool. "I wanted to revitalize the story. I thought we could use a mural to tell it and further beautify the public space."
Kool coordinated funding from several sources and the mural project was underway. "It energized the whole community," she added.
The actual painting of the mural took three months and was led by professional artists Brent Clowater and Jerry Whitehead. Tupper students however did a lot of the work. Under Clowater and Whitehead's guidance, they practiced a range of new techniques, using various styles. "The kids learned what goes on with a huge project like this - planning, sourcing materials and donations - how labour intensive it is," said Clowater.
The theme of the piece, developed with the kids, is rebirth. The narrative moves from left to right; night to day and back to night again. Clowater hopes the viewer sees growth, movement, multiculturalism and welcoming.
On June 10th Tupper marked the one year anniversary of the mural's completion at its annual MultiFest-a celebration of the school's diversity with food, art, music, dance, and crafts.
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