Behind the Mask
A Public Art Project And Exhibit
“We all deserve connection and love.”
-Freesia, participant who created the mask titled ‘The Higher Self’
What does it mean to be seen—and accepted—in our authenticity and wholeness? To have a space to explore the vastness of our emotional experiences without judgment, but rather with curiosity?
Behind the Mask explores a space where our emotions, whether joy or grief, aversion or delight, can all be welcomed and celebrated as vital experiences that contribute to our individual and collective growth, self-awareness, and healing.
In Behind the Mask, 10 special individuals in Vernon have shared a vulnerable, beautiful exploration of the unseen sides of themselves. At a time when mental health challenges have affected so many of us—is a story of hope, courage, and community.
Watch the Mini Documentary Here!
10 inspiring Vernon residents
with lived experiences explore and share the hidden sides of themselves through an uplifting journey of making art.
10 photographs and reflections
Participants were photographed wearing their masks in a setting of their choice. The masks, photographs, and reflections from each artist are now on display at VPAG in the exhibit ‘Behind the Mask.’
3 workshops & 10 masks
Guided by a local harm reduction coordinator and a renowned artist-facilitator who specializes in public art projects exploring societal issues, participants created masks through an intimate, storytelling process.
is being produced to record some of the remarkable moments and reflections along the way in creating ‘Behind the Mask.’ Stay tuned!
The photographs, if the project proceeds, will become public art installations this summer at these sites:
Gateway (Turning Points) X 2
Vernon Community Arts Centre
Civic Park Building
Alternatives Funeral & Cremation Services
2 Pending Locations
Each mural will post a QR code to this landing page that will help viewers learn more about the project.
What can you do?
As Vernon considers Behind the Mask’s third and final phase—the installation of murals featuring the artists and their masks—we ask you to:
Learn about the story and the people behind the masks here and at the exhibit
Give feedback at the exhibit June 21 - July 5 as part of a public consultation process
How do we want Vernon to show up for any social issues in our community?
Is it with compassion?
What can we learn and gain from conversations about hard subjects?
Do we want Vernon to benefit from this public art opportunity or let the national grant go to another community?
Behind the Mask: Project FAQ's
What are the benefits of the project?By keeping the project moving ahead as approved, Vernon has the opportunity to benefit in several ways, including: Supporting community as we shape public spaces into social places that inspire dialogue and demonstrate we are a welcoming, diverse and inclusive community Supporting culture as we expand on artistic styles and projects currently available in Vernon Supporting the economy as tourists and locals spend time in downtown Vernon exploring the murals
Who are the ‘Behind the Mask’ artists and how were they chosen?As we embarked on this project to give a canvas to local people with lived experiences (PWLE) about what it really means to live with mental health challenges, we connected with several local social agencies to find community members that would be a good fit for this project. We were fortunate to be connected with Turning Points Collaborative Society, an organization offering outreach, shelter and housing options for those experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. The three-part ‘Behind the Mask’ project turned out to be a good fit for an outreach group at Turning Points. Eight local individuals with lived experiences participated in the project, which was guided by experienced facilitator Katie Green and the harm reduction program coordinator at Turning Points Collaborative Society. The VPAG learning and community engagement coordinator and the harm and reduction coordinator from Turning Points also had the opportunity to participate in the workshop. As you’ll see when you visit the exhibit, each participant gives their mask a name, and some share their own first names or nicknames. The consent process along the way included many steps to ensure the participants felt accurately represented by the art, understood that it would be included in a large-scale public installation…and had the opportunity to remain anonymous. What brave and inspiring individuals they all are. The participants were compensated for their contribution.
Who is the facilitator of the project and how was she chosen?Katie Green is a multi-disciplinary artist who facilitates large-scale projects that help empower individuals and help communities uncover complexities. As a globally recognized facilitator with experience leading large-scale public art projects on societal issues, Katie’s background met critical funding criteria from the Canada Council of Arts. We are fortunate to have Katie collaborating with us to shine a light on the experiences and art of these members of our community.
What will the murals look like?With the exhibit now on display at VPAG, we have a unique opportunity to view the art before they become murals. The exhibit displays two of the phases of the project—the mask-making and a photograph of the artist wearing the mask, along with very moving quotes about their experience with the art and with being seen. Some of the images that were circulated early on reflect a different project of the facilitator’s, not the art being created in Vernon. Please take a few minutes to visit and see these very special works of art firsthand.
What sources of funding supported this project?Most of the funds for this project came from sources dedicated to public art projects; the funds can only be used for this special purpose. Several sources of funding will support Behind the Mask project, including: -Canada Council of the Arts ($55,500—dollars that will otherwise go to another community if the funds have to be given back) -City of Vernon ($33,000, from a public arts fund) -Tourism Vernon -Regional District North Okanagan ($10,000, from a public art fund) -NOR-VAL Rentals is supporting the installation with services in kind A significant portion of the funds goes the printing and supplies, and we were also able to compensate the participants.
What is the City of Vernon's approval process for public art installations?The Vernon Public Art Gallery followed the City of Vernon’s current process for murals, which follows the City of Vernon’s Sign Bylaw #4489. Currently, that process doesn’t require an education and public consultation phase, but VPAG is happy to work with the city and the community to help residents learn more and provide feedback.
What is the role of the Vernon Public Art Gallery in shedding light on societal issues?Public art is an opportunity to bridge social and cultural issues through visual arts. Part of VPAG’s important work is to give the public an opportunity to explore and discuss difficult topics in neutral spaces and with visual arts as the language for that dialogue.
In 2016, the Regional District of the North Okanagan adopted the Greater Vernon Cultural Plan.
One of the sixteen objectives included in the plan is to:
“Protect, support and encourage public art.”
What is the objective of public art?
1. Economic development
2. Cultural development
3. Community development
‘Behind the Mask’ meets all three criteria for public art.