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Gallery outreach project brings together students from five local high schools

Oct 28 2012
Artist Cameron Kidd paints a mural on the side of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. 

Artist Cameron Kidd paints a mural on the side of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford , Times Colonist

Street art merged with museum art Saturday, when a group of local youths spray-painted a colourful snake on the side of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

About 10 teens from five different high schools spent hours on the Street SmArt project - a new gallery initiative that invites local youth to work with muralists in a mentorship relationship.

In addition to youth outreach, the project aims to mitigate the negative reputation that tagging gives graffiti art, said Gillian Booth, an educator, tours and outreach co-ordinator for the gallery.

"The other goal," she said, "Is to highlight street art and graffiti art and get people to understand that art is more than what we hang on the wall inside the gallery."

The teens were guided in the project by artist Cameron Kidd, who has extensive experience painting walls around the city.

"He takes pride in graffiti art and also has a vision for how people in Victoria could embrace mural art - and how there could be a transition from what many people see as graffiti to traditional murals," Booth said.

Kidd's first experience with graffiti art was tagging buildings in Cadboro Bay as a teen and he built his skills through trial and error.

"We had a couple of spots we could go and paint, but nothing like this," he said.

He spray-painted prolifically for the next five or so years and his view on the form developed.

"Now it's become more refined and my thoughts on what I'm doing has changed," he said.

"I'm more interested in painting big beautiful things. I don't really think about this as if it's graffiti or anything, I just think about it as if I'm using all these skills that I learned when I was younger and have been building up since then to paint large scale."

Participating teens said it was a rare opportunity.

"It's hard for kids," said Dorone Smith, 18, from Oak Bay High School.

"Everyone here is an artist and they'd do a lot more art if there were opportunities like this [more often]."

He said the collaborative aspect was especially appealing.

Several said they were inspired by the street art they see around Victoria.

"Especially in my neighbourhood, there's all these bridges and spots - I always grew up with graffiti and was fascinated by it," said Josh Kovacs, 15, a student at Spectrum Community School. "So when our art teacher came and told us about this, I was really stoked."

Marshall Lawrie, also 15 and from Spectrum, mirrored his thoughts. "There's a pretty big graffiti scene in Victoria, so it's inspiring to see all of it," he said. "It makes you want to get into it."

He said it's also a good way to get your name and work in the public, instead of just showing at school.

The gallery spread the word about the program through schools and community centres.

It plans to continue the project with a new group and new artist-mentor in January. asmart@timescolonist.com

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