The faces of our community


- Kim Dias

Kira Chong in front of her "Faces of the Community" mural.

Kira Chong is a fifth-year education student at UVic with a love for art and giving back to the community. She recently brought these two passions together with her "Faces of the Community" mural.

The project took place over three days. Day one focused on creating a dialogue between participants about identity, mental health and connection with others.

On day two, participants came together to draw faces on the mural. Facilitators projected images for participants to trace on the front side, while the back side was drawn freehand. Chong describes it as a "paint party."

"We had DJs, singers, catering," she says. "People brought their dogs. It was a really good time."

On day three, the mural was placed outside UVic's McPherson Library for people to colour. "Anyone walking by could stop and have a therapeutic little art session," Chong says.

Art as therapy

The idea of art as therapy is one close to Chong's heart. She believes that sometimes words can’t capture an individual’s unique experience with mental health struggles.

Art lets you express yourself beyond just words. That's the magical part of art. There are so many things in life that you can’t really define or say. But I think art has a way of resonating with people. It’s an unspoken language.
Kira Chong, UVic education student

Someone involved with the mural seems to echo this sentiment. They wrote a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince on the back of the mural: "The heart has reasons that reason cannot understand."

Photo of the mural with the quote
"The heart has reasons that reason cannot understand."

A medley of personalities and styles

The mural itself is a medley of different personalities and art styles. A green-faced girl in a UVic hoodie—drawn by Chong—sits beside a sparsely-sketched smiley face who wears a blue hat. A pug stands next to a face built from flags. A girl hikes underneath a little pink flamingo.

The mural brings to mind an I Spy picture book: the longer you look at it, the more details you notice hidden between the larger drawings. A tiny ghost hovers and says, "Boo." Two people have played a game of tic-tac-toe. (The game appears to be a draw.)

Chong says her vision for this project was for participants to have complete control and freedom to do whatever they wanted. "I think people have an intuitive understanding of colour," she says. "The moment you put the pen on the paper, I think our brains know how to work it all out. I trust that it comes together."

"Everyone is out to help each other," Chong says. "If you want to do something meaningful, then all these people who you never would have imagined will start popping up and all the dots start to connect to each other."

Funding for community-based projects

Chong received funding from the Student Activity Grant and the Victoria Visual Arts Legacy Society. She hopes that other students will apply for those grants and use the money to continue community-based art projects.

"I really hope this isn’t the last thing," she says. "I hope this is just the starting point."

Authored by UVic writing student Kim Dias.


In this story

Keywords: community, student life, mental health, arts

People: Kira Chong

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