Have you seen the mural that was unveiled earlier this month? It’s hard to miss if you are driving down Bridge Street towards the brown bridge. The newest oversized piece of art is proudly displayed on the outside wall of Home Hardware facing the back of the library building. It’s a nice piece of work and it got me thinking.
It has been about twenty-five years since I have been on Vancouver Island. One quick trip through Chemainus has remained with me as I recall seeing some of the famous murals on the sides of buildings there. In recent years I have stumbled upon larger-than-life art in Merritt, Vernon, Hope and Cranbrook. It is rather common.
If you take a closer look at the buildings in and around Princeton you will see what I am talking about when I say we are already onto something here. The fire hall, Legion, USIB Forestry Field Office and even Riverside Centre have giant murals on them. The one at Riverside Centre was more of a collaborative effort of many locals.
There is a lot of art around us already because Princeton has – for some reason – attracted a lot of artistically talented people. I think of the water fountain in Veterans Square and even the graffiti that covers the skateboard park next to the arena as all being examples of the expressive nature of the artists in and around our community.
So What Is My Point?
I think there should be more murals and giant art displays. I really do. Small towns in particular benefit greatly with these kinds of projects. I’m not just talking about tourism, although that is the part that generally feeds the local economy. Here are a few of the benefits that art projects can bring to a community that embraces them:
1 – Promotes Public Space Interaction
Veterans Square is a perfect example of how the “art of design” has created an attractive meeting place in the centre of town. The gazebo hosts many live performances and the overall artistic elements of that and the water fountain that people can sit near or around provides direct interaction with friends, neighbours and strangers all meeting in the same place. Imagine if all of the parks in the community were designed with interactive art pieces?
I’m thinking specifically of the proposed barbeque/warming hut idea to replace the Bugnut building on Vermilion Avenue at Veterans Square. How inviting would each of the parks in Princeton be if a winter shelter frame and a heat source were available for use in the neighbourhoods with each park? This could encourage block parties where newcomers and long-term residents could interact and use the space for their own celebrations and gatherings.
2 – Get Local Youth Involved
I mentioned the artwork at the skateboard park. I strongly feel that the youth of the community are not being reached or included enough. I know that many young people participated in the mural project at the USIB Forestry Field Office near Memorial Park. I still feel that there has to be more opportunity for their voices to be heard.
Art and music are languages that cross several man-made barriers related to demographic and culture. I would support the establishment of some public place locations (sides of buildings) downtown where local youth could express themselves artistically. I’ve seen it done and it can truly be amazing and productive on many different levels.
3 – The Power Of Preservation
Art projects of any kind have an interesting extra feature to them. They tend to secretly possess the power of preservation. What I mean by that is demonstrated in more than one existing example. The mural on the front of the Princeton Legion is of Susan Louisa Moir Allison. The mural on the USIB Forestry Field Office building tells of events in First Nations history in the region. Both of these pieces of public art are preserving some of the history of the area. As a result, both are also keeping that history alive. The importance of knowing our past is significant and public art projects are a great way of preserving and sharing history with others.
4 – It Gets People Involved
The ceramic ‘tile mural’ outside of Riverside Centre is an example of how community art projects, like murals, can get others involved. The projects can be different to the one at Riverside Centre, but when public involvement is one of the key elements to an art display, it draws people into the fold. Often it includes people who may not otherwise participate in public events or activities. This adds to the character of the community when the project involves a wider spectrum of residents representing demographics that would otherwise not participate. Any public project that includes residents will foster goodwill and cooperation which work together to build a stronger community.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately I would love to see each and every public building either covered in larger wall murals or with a giant piece of public art on their property. When we all work together to beautify our community – in whatever format that happens to be – we take greater pride in where we live. We start to support each other more, including local businesses. Plus, with the added feature of many more displays of public art – in addition to the ones we already have – our community becomes a tourist destination.
The murals, art walks and open community public spaces become selling features to attract more than just tourists. It becomes a marketing tool to attract new residents and some new businesses. If I am elected to Princeton Town Council in October, I will encourage working with the Princeton Arts Council and all other local arts and culture groups to create projects to beautify our community for our enjoyment and the enjoyment of others visiting our part of the Similkameen Valley. Community-based art projects help build better communities.
I am a firm believer in the power of numbers. In my mind that has to do with like-minded individuals working on the same plan, seeking the same results. For me, I find that when people work together as a group they can accomplish more. I have also been part of several groups that pushed in the same direction and the results were successful. It’s a logical way to do things.
Can Working Together End Crime?
In recent weeks there have been senseless acts of vandalism and theft of public property. Before you say that it’s ‘normal’ here and that it is a ‘Princeton thing’ let’s take a different look at what is happening. Are people bored and they need to do these things to keep their minds active? Are these events happening because law enforcement is already stretched to the max?
I’m sure the answer lies somewhere in between those two questions. Regardless of why vandalism takes place, there is a way in which we can work together to stop – or at least reduce – the frequency of the incidents. You’ll notice that I said we have to ‘work together’ to solve the problem. I’m thinking it’s time to get serious with a Neighbourhood Watch Program.
How To Start A Neighbourhood Watch Group In Just A Few Steps
1 – Recruit Your Neighbours
The first step to getting a group together to work on keeping your neighbourhood safe is by getting to know your neighbours. If you can pull together as many as possible, then you are on your way.
2 – Meet With RCMP
Once you have gathered enough neighbours, contact your local Detachment of the RCMP. You’ll want to schedule a meeting where you can discuss your concerns about crime and safety in your neighbourhood. It’s important that the group you form works together with RCMP (working together is the key) as your Neighbourhood Watch Group should be a cooperative effort with law enforcement.
3 – Discuss Concerns/Develop An Action Plan
So what if the local RCMP can’t meet with you? Try the local municipal bylaw enforcement department. If you cannot attract any representation from your local enforcement agencies, host a neighbourhood meeting anyway and discuss the top three concerns of those in attendance. The group should then take those three concerns and create a plan on how to lessen the impact of those issues in your neighbourhood. For example, if speeding is a concern, have neighbours take turns monitoring the street where this happens recording times/dates of incidents as well as vehicle descriptions and license plates. This information would then be passed on to authorities.
4 – Plan Your Communication Strategy
Your Neighbourhood Watch Group will work best if there is regular communication between members. That may be in the form of a regular meeting, a phone call or a closed social media group or e-mail group. Whatever the format is decided, use it consistently to keep all members informed about what is happening within the group and what observations are being made by group members. DO NOT USE social media to ‘out’ speeders or other individuals related to the core concerns of your neighbours.
5 – Host Meetings/Events
Want to spread the word and get other neighbourhoods forming their own Watch Groups? Host information meetings about the program. Also, host informational meeting on topics of interest that can be educational for others. Subjects can be about how to secure your home/office, what signs in your yard tell that you have been away for a period of time, how to protect your home from a break-in, etc. The meetings will help to show the benefit of working together with your neighbours and community to reduce crime.
The Benefits Of Starting A Neighbourhood Watch Group
I know, we have had Watch Groups active in the past in Princeton. We have also had Citizens on Patrol (COPP). Maybe it is time that we all started working together again to take control of the situation and work as a group to reduce the senseless acts of vandalism and theft. Yes, I am fully aware that the incidents may never go away completely but by working as a group – using the power of numbers – we can easily reduce the frequency of these incidents.
So, what are the benefits of doing this? Here are a few to consider:
1 – The creation of partnerships with your neighbours and law enforcement
2 – A reduction in crime/vandalism
3 – A hometown that is better prepared and more secure
4 – A unified community of residents all working together for the same goals
5 – Improved communication between neighbours and neighbourhoods and throughout the community
Can We Actually Work Together To Make Change?
I believe we can. I have actually seen proof of this in action. Typically, it required a tragedy of some kind but think back to the forest fire situation from last summer. The community pulled together and opened their homes, hearts, pantries and wallets to assist. Imagine how powerful our community could be if we all worked together to combat crime in our neighbourhoods. It can be done. I think that the initiative must come from residents. However, I also strongly feel that neighbourhoods forming Watch Groups require the support of Town Council simply because the safer our neighbourhoods become, the more attractive our community becomes to others. This could lead to growth and new business, which would benefit our community as a whole.
My name is George Elliott. I have been in the Media Industry since 1978. I spent 23 years in Broadcasting and worked in a total of six different radio stations located in southern British Columbia Canada during my career. In 2000 I switched gears and moved into the Print Media Industry at a small town, local weekly community newspaper. In 2004 I bought the paper and operated it with my wife, Brenda until July 2016 when we closed it. I launched a freelance web content and article writing business from my home in January 2014.