Art school hopes ‘razzle-dazzle’ of building won’t be painted over

The Vancouver Island School of Art has vacated its former premises on Quadra Street, but school staff and others are hoping the unique painted design on the building’s exterior can be saved.

The art school — which called the Quadra Village building home for 13 years — paid $10,000 in 2014 for the artwork, designed by artist Xane St. Phillip and painted by several others.

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The design is reminiscent of the distinctive “razzle-dazzle” design of Allied warships, used primarily in the First World War. They were painted with patterns and shapes to make it hard for the enemy to figure out the size and speed of vessels.

The Greater Victoria school board decided last year that the art-education facility would have to move from the school-district-owned property. The building will be used for offices.

No decision has been made about the exterior design, said district secretary-treasurer Mark Walsh.

“The artist himself reached out to us,” Walsh said.

“And what we’ve committed to doing is consulting with the employees that will be working in that building, to talk to them about what they think about maintaining that.

“So we’re opening the discussion with our workers to see if that’s something that they’re open to.”

Art school executive director Wendy Welch said the artwork has worn well, and there is support for saving it, citing social-media comments.

“The paint is still really good and the people in the neighbourhood really like it.”

It also ties in with the vintage of the building, built in 1921, Welch said.

“I’m just acting as an advocate for art in Victoria, and I think the building is a work of art,” she said. “Why repaint it when the paint is still really fresh?”

The art school is now in an interim location at the former Blanshard Elementary School, Welch said. It’s scheduled to move in September 2020 into space in a residential complex on Fifth Street, still in the Quadra Village area, thanks to an offer from developer Aryze.

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