As a peaceful protest against the racist propaganda which was distributed around schools in the community in the fall of 2020, École Beairsto and the Vernon Public Art Gallery are excited to present a collaborative social justice project as a way to speak up against hate.
In the fall of 2020, hundreds of flyers on pieces of white paper with the headline ‘Wake Up’ along with a list of several web pages that promote racism and Nazism, were found scattered outside several Vernon schools, leaving many parents and staff seriously concerned, shocked and saddened.
The PAC at École Beairsto felt they needed to speak up against this incident and are taking action by creating acts of resistance. With the instruction from VPAG’s learning and community engagement curator, Kelsie Balehowsky, the students will take part in an anti-racism discussion and workshop which will result in the creation of self-portraits which will then be displayed in an exhibition at the VPAG from July 29 – Oct 19, 2021. The 715 self-portraits will form a rainbow mosaic of diversity that highlights the differences that make each one of us special.
The project will not only feature the 715 canvases with a self-portrait of each student to be displayed in the VPAG in an exhibition in July; but also an anti-racist banner which will be hung outside the school; a publication featuring the artworks and handwritten paragraphs from each class revealing the students anti-racist manifesto; a community conversation panel discussion as a way to bring people working in the anti-racism field together to discuss the topic; and new to the project is a special mini-documentary. The workshop portion and the mini-documentary portions of the project are sponsored by the Social Planning Council North Okanagan and funded by a provincial government grant through the Resilience BC program.
“I am honoured to work alongside the teachers and students at Beairsto to actively oppose racism in our community and celebrate our diversity by exploring identity through the creation of self-portraits. Anti-racism, inclusion, accessibility and diversity can be taught to all ages and we should not shy away from making these steps in the community.” – Kelsie Balehowsky, Learning and Community Engagement Curator at the VPAG.