Four symbols of inclusion and belonging have been unveiled in Keremeos.
Championing messages of hope, a brand-new mural project can now be seen in Keremeos and local Sylix artist Haley Regan artist says they were designed to bring people together.
The artwork, which includes images of the Gyro Park bandshell in Penticton and Rainbow Crosswalk on Power Street, can be found across from the Mom and Pops Fruit Stand and in front of the South Similkameen Health Centre’s parking lot.
An event to unveil the work was hosted on Friday, Nov. 17, by B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender.
The gathering was held to build off the final report of the commissioner’s inquiry into hate during the pandemic. Statistics included estimates of around 20,000 hate-related incidents in B.C. between 2015 and 2021, with a “significant spike” seen during COVID,” Govender told Black Press.
The full report includes 12 recommendations, most of which for the B.C. government, on how to combat hate. It was deemed complete in March 2023.
“We’re trying to make sure that those recommendations don’t just become conversation for policymakers, that they’re instead conversations that really engage communities,” said Govender. “This issue isn’t one that should be isolated to government, it should be something we’re all talking about and art is a big part of that.”
Keremeos was one of four B.C. communities selected to have brand-new murals, with Vancouver, Nanaimo and Fort St. John serving as the other three.
The province-wide project is called “From Hate to Hope.”
“(Keremeos) is the smallest community that we are doing this work in and we wanted to have a range in sizes to make sure that we aren’t leaving these conversations only for the big centres,” Govender explained. “We know that hate happens across the province and everyone needs to be engaged with this.”
Mayor Jason Wiebe was also at the event, speaking to a crowd of about 20 before the murals were officially unveiled.
“We need to implement changes to improve the future,” said the first-term mayor, who previously served on the board of the South Okanagan and Immigrant Community Services (SOICS). “So today, we take a moment to remember that step by step, one initiative at a time, we can make a difference.”
SOICS, led by executive director Cherry Fernandez, was credited with helping the commissioner’s office in making the project a Keremeos reality.
Youth from the local non-profit’s One World Crew helped the aforementioned Regan design the murals.
As for where the mural project was unveiled, Govender couldn’t be more pleased.
“This location was chosen because the health centre is a regional hub and people are going to hopefully engage with the murals on a daily basis through their interactions with the centre,” the commissioner said. “But also with the traffic…we know we’re going to engage people from across the region and province because this is a major road.”