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Artist of removed Nelson mural wants arts council to review process

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The creator of a recently-removed downtown Nelson mural is “pretty upset” and hoping the Nelson and District Arts Council changes its process in the future.

In an interview with Vista Radio, Brian McLachlan says he was only contacted by the NDAC “a few weeks” before its removal – not enough time to challenge the decision.

He was able to cobble together a protest rally and had “72 signatures in an hour” of those against its removal. McLachlan adds he surveyed local businesses and “there were all really upset, pretty gobsmacked about what was going on.”

Brian McLachlan says his 22-year-old millennium mural on Hall Street was meant to last a long time, created through a “rich experience” of travelling the Kootenays and having people posing for various portions of the collage.

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“I spent hours of dedication, prepping and sandblasting that entire wall and repointing the concrete. It looked like the day I painted it. And, no, there was no indication it was going to be painted over in the future. It was a reference point for our history in this community,” he said.

The arts council says it’s partnered with a Sinixt artist, Ric Gendron, to paint a new mural this spring.

In an online announcement, the NDAC says that while the existing mural was created and with great respect to the community…”it is vital that we all move forward together to respect the way in which history is preserved and represented today.”

McLachlan says he’s respectful of Indigenous people and did the best he could to represent them at the time.

He says painting over removes reference points to guide the city and nation into the future.

“But I also recognize there’s parts in our history that don’t need to be painted over or covered up, that we need to have reference points to understand where we’re going in the future. So we understand how we have been oppressed, as a people, as a nation. I think we’re all one and we all need to create unity with one another,” McLachlan said.

In a social media post, city councillor Keith Page said other murals had lifespan agreements of 10 years in order to “make room for a new artist to put their stamp on the city.” But McLachlan claims his work was a millennium piece and there was never any indication nor an agreement from the arts council that the mural had a lifespan.

“I’m not anywhere convinced anything nefarious happened here either,” Page wrote. “And we should not dismiss out of hand the loss of depriving new artists of their chance to put a stamp on Nelson’s timeline.”

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