In Spences Bridge, two beautiful, larger-than-life butterflies grace one wall of the former school, beckoning people to stand in front of them and give themselves wings. In Ashcroft, bright salmon leap through water below sandy hills on a wall of the HUB.
These joyous works of art have a common thread — Spences Bridge artists Kathleen Kinasewich and Andrea Ardiles — and Kinasewich explains that one of the pieces was intended for Lytton, before tragedy intervened.
“I had started a dialogue with Lytton First Nation about the butterfly piece,” she explains. “I went around Lytton and took pictures of places that would work, and had approval for funding from the Vancouver Foundation’s Neighbourhood Small Grants program.
“I was going to work with two Indigenous youth I had taught high school art to at Stein Valley School. They were going to interpret butterflies from their culture, and a child butterfly was always going to represent the souls who left us from Residential Schools. It was such a nice idea.”
Two weeks later, however, “The Village of Lytton didn’t exist.” Kinasewich looked around for another wall that would work, but says that it was so smoky she put the search off.
Then she mentioned the project to the Spences Bridge Improvement District, and everything clicked. “The wall of the SBID building was in awful shape. And the wildfire got so close to Spences Bridge, so it was a way of supporting Lytton Strong and Spences Bridge, because we almost lost our homes to the same fire that destroyed Lytton. It was a monster, and it took until late summer to realize how we were all affected by it.”
Kinasewich got in touch with another local artist: Andrea Ardiles, who lives at Hilltop Farms and whose mother is a nurse in Ashcroft. “I asked her if she wanted to do a mural. We spent about 80 volunteer hours working on the butterflies, but we were both passionate about the project. The beauty of the butterflies and the beautification of that wall did something good for us. We were in a dark mode, and it does us good to stand in front of the butterflies, which are a symbol of hope.”
The butterflies are meant to be interactive art, and Kinasewich says people who see them are encouraged to stand in front of them and have their picture taken with the wings spreading out behind. “The child-sized interactive art butterfly is intended to honour the lost souls of residential schools, and is our way of supporting the Indigenous community that we live in, and honouring those lives lost.”
She adds that she wants to put up a sign explaining the meaning of the butterflies, along with hashtags. “We want people to put pictures on social media and share them with friends and family around the world, encouraging them to come and visit the butterflies.”
The mural at the Ashcroft HUB is a work in progress, and sees Kinasewich and Ardiles working with another local artist: Lilly Krants, whose grandmother got in touch with Kinasewich to say that Lilly had just moved into the area and was passionate about getting involved in the community and doing art. “Lilly lives at the reserve at Kumsheen, and brings an Indigenous perspective to the mural.”
The theme of the mural — butterflies, and their preservation — came about after discussions with Ashcroft’s Anne McKague, an advocate for butterflies and their importance.
“The idea is to teach people about butterflies through art. We met with Anne many times at the wall, and were astounded by the size of it [35 feet long and more than 20 feet high]. Jessica Clement at the HUB applied to the Vancouver Foundation for the grant, and we wondered how we would do it with $500.”
Eventually they came up with a design, which will see two 3D butterflies and a 3D sun — currently under construction indoors at the HUB — against a backdrop of sandy hills, river, and salmon evoking the landscape and natural elements around Ashcroft. “Anne wanted specific colours and butterflies, and we’re creating two that are local to the area and come here. They should be ready to attach to the building later this month.”
Kinasewich says that she’s been shown more walls at the HUB where art could be created, and feels there is an opportunity for other artists to do panels and create a beautiful, colourful building. She adds that the Desert Daze committee is also talking about putting more murals on the side of the former elementary school in Spences Bridge.
“We’ve completed two murals in communities that really could use a smile, and we the artists are grateful for that reaction. Artists of any kind right now really want to share their creativity.”