‘Soul poles’ spread throughout Victoria

Painting project brings new energy to Fernwood residents

Pole artist Beth Threlfall beautifies a hydro pole with art.

Pole artist Beth Threlfall beautifies a hydro pole with art.

Painting project brings new energy to Fernwood residents

It started out as a response to vandalism. Now, those stenciled pansies, poppies, sunflowers and daisies that mark hydro poles have become a fixture in the Fernwood community for the last three years. And, this year, those painted wild flowers could spread even further.

The Fernwood “Pole Painting Project” began in 2008 by artist Beth Threlfall after she attended a community lecture about neighbourhood livability and beautification. This year, the Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group has adopted the project in a May 28 event. Already 60 people have signed up to paint, and 40 members of Telus are heading out to join the efforts — a long way from Threlfall’s solo mission.

“I came out of that 2008 talk pretty jazzed and I thought, what’s one thing that catches my eye in this community — the telephone poles,” Threlfall says. “It really bothered me that there was this blight that came out in our neighbourhood through tagging and vandalism, and I wanted to do something to change that.”

Threlfall asked BC Hydro for permission to paint just the poles in front of her own house. After some consideration they granted her request, and soon after she had stenciled floral designs on her own hydro poles, neighbours were requesting she bring the same energy to theirs.

“It was wonderful! I was meeting neighbours I had never seen before, who stopped to ask what I was doing, and cars were going past, honking in approval,” she says, adding that she calls her works “soul poles.”

Still, not everyone was thrilled with the art. One neighbour would paint the poles, and Threlfall’s work, in black, which would then often be retagged and vandalized. Threlfall kept returning to the poles and repainting them, until she finally caught the unsatisfied neighbour in the act and explained her mission and the fact that she had permission.

“Some people definitely prefer to have a clean look, and we’re telling people that even on painting day we will respect anyone who doesn’t want their pole painted,” Threlfall says. “So many people love it, though, and it brings a real vibe to the community.”

While the project remains a thrill to Threlfall, she’s happy and relieved that the neighbourhood group has stepped in to make the event official and turn it into something even bigger than she ever could have done alone.

“There are thousands of poles in the Victoria area, and I would walk past and see these tagged poles and feel this sense of duty — oh my god, I have to tend to that pole,” Threlfall says. “It is a non-intrusive way to brighten up any neighbourhood.”

For the Saturday event, all supplies are being provided by the Fernwood group, with paint collected from donations and the reusable refuge at Heartland Landfill. There will be musical entertainment and a BBQ after, and even non-Fernwood residents are invited.

“It’s evolved into this larger than life project, and we’ve had such huge support from the community on this,” says Mila Czemerys, project organizer. “We’re really putting all our resources into this, and we’d like to see it continue. It fits within our values so well, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Pole projects have cropped up in other areas of Victoria as well, and some of Threlfall’s work can be seen in Oak Bay, James Bay and Quadra area.

However, Threlfall adds that there are still challenges to be dealt with.

“Unfortunately, pole painting is not a solution,” she says. “I still have to retouch my poles at least twice a year due to tagging … It would be marvelous if everyone would recognize and protect our community by getting involved.” M

Event

Join in the fun on May 28, 10 am to 2 pm, starting at Fernwood Square. Paint and materials will be provided, no painting experience necessary. For more info, visit fernwoodnrg.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Royal B.C. Museum has added a tamba dining set, used by a Punjabi man on his voyage to Canada in 1927, to its ‘100 Objects of Interest’ online collection. (Courtesy of Royal B.C. Museum)
Punjabi dining set added to Royal B.C. Museum’s ‘100 Objects of Interest’ collection

Set used by Indar Singh Gill on his voyage from Punjab to Canada in 1927

Victoria-born musician Bryce Dane Soderberg took to Instagram Monday to call out the Greater Victoria School District on its proposed cuts to elementary and middle school music programs. (Bryce Dane Soderberg/Instagram)
Victoria-born Lifehouse vocalist calls out SD61 on proposed music cuts

‘It will be a big loss to future generations’ Bryce Dane Soderberg posted to his Instagram

Ballet Victoria is honouring Rosemarie Liscum, the president of the board of directors who was instrumental in the building the dance company. Liscum died earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of Ballet Victoria)
Rosemarie Liscum remembered as dedicated, instrumental builder of Victoria Ballet

The president of the ballet company’s board of directors died at the age of 59

Marianne Turley is one of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award winners for Honour in Culture. (Bulletin file photo)
Longtime Vancouver Island Symphony board member gets posthumous culture award

Marianne Turley receives City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Honour in Culture

The CVAC Fine Arts Show is always something to see and 2021 promises to be no different, as they adopt a fully multimedia approach. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Fine Arts Show goes multimedia for 2021

The show, which runs from May 1-22 will be available both in person and online.

Dinner After a Death, a painting by Sooke artist Bryan Cathcart is part of a collection featuring his work at the Outsiders and Others Gallery in Vancouver. (Contributed - Bryan Cathcart)
Sooke artist finds creativity by expanding artistic horizons

Bryan Cathcart, 26, featured at Vancouver gallery

Viking-inspired fantasy writer Joshua Gillingham of Nanaimo and Seattle-based Islamic science fiction editor Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad are co-editing ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star.’ (Photos submitted, illustration by Lada Shustova/Figue)
Nanaimo author co-editing historical anthology connecting Vikings and Muslims

Joshua Gilligham presents ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star’

Saltair-based writer, Krista May. (Janet Kelly photo)
Island writers make long-list for 2021 CBC Short Story Prize

Krista May and Angie Ellis among 33 finalists selected out of over 3,000 entrants

A writer studying in England drew from her roots growing up in Sooke for a story that’s been short-listed for a prestigious international prize.
Former Sooke resident up for prestigious writing award

Cara Marks earns nomination for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Three Legged Dog Productions performed Jesus Christ Superstar in 2019. Tim Penney photo
Non-profit plans musical renaissance in the Comox Valley

Three Legged Dog Productions is preparing for a summer residency at Filberg Park

View Gallery curator Chai Duncan admires the work of graduating visual art student Hailin Zhang, one of the artists in the upcoming End Marks grad show. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
VIU visual art grad show presented as virtual gallery tour due to COVID-19

‘End Marks’ exhibition is on display from April 29 to May 30

Most Read