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Nanaimo youths create colourful ‘Otherworlds’ characters for public art display

Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Junior Code program showing paintings downtown
Junior Code members Stephanie Mollins, Ava Hornby, Tori Djakovic, Laryssa Macdonald-Zuloaga and Oliver Mollins (from left) created the new outdoor art installation, ‘Otherworlds.’ (Chris Bush/The News Bulletin)

A new piece of public art is on display downtown courtesy the participants of the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s youth art program.

This past weekend a series of six panels depicting cartoonish characters was installed on the brick wall around the corner from Sound Heritage on Victoria Crescent in downtown Nanaimo. The installation, Otherworlds, was created by members of the NAG’s Junior Code art group.

“Instead of just playing with abstract shapes and forms and design and colour, we decided to introduce for this younger age range … this idea of creating a character that they can animate somehow in public space,” NAG art education co-ordinator Yvonne Vander Kooi said.

Vander Kooi mentored the 12-to-14-year-old artists along with visiting artist and frequent NAG guest Bracken Hanuse Corlett of Wuikinuxv and Klahoose First Nations.

Among the participants were Ava Hornby, 12, and Tori Djakovic, 14. It’s the first time either of them are participating in NAG programming, with both joining to broaden their art knowledge and experience.

“It sounded a lot of fun and I wanted to expand my art and learn new things,” Djakovic said.

Djakovic’s painting depicts a mushroom and relates to nature on the Island, while Hornby’s painting shows a green-skinned woman peering through a broken mask. Vander Kooi said the work was done over Zoom and in-person with COVID-19 precautions in place.

“The idea was they would create these characters, a kind of hybrid character, otherworldly, creaturely … and so they all came up with fairly different work but what connects the work is the colour palette and the theme, the idea of characters,” Vander Kooi said.

Neither Djajovic nor Hornby had shown their work in public before and both said it was “awesome” to see their pieces up on the wall.

“I never really thought that I would get the chance to have something shown in public,” Hornby said. “So it was a great experience to go down there and see something that I spent time on and hard work doing over the past few weeks being presented to people and hopefully making their days a bit better.”

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