Artist creating upbeat mural at Victoria counselling centre

Jessica Jean Kuyper is filling in a summer between art courses by painting a mural on the outside wall of a counselling centre at 941 Kings Rd. in Victoria.

Kuyper, 26, is headed off to the University of Gloucestershire in September to pursue a bachelor of fine arts degree. She recently graduated from the Vancouver Island School of Art.

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“Kuyper's focus is connecting those unfamiliar with the art community and showing its hidden potential for creating a livelier space to be; whither it’s on the streets or in a gallery, there are experiences that everyone can share,” said Michele Murphy of Citizens Counselling Centre, which offers affordable, accessible counselling to adults in Greater Victoria.

Graffiti artists have targeted the building and the mural is one way to deter them, said Murphy.

The Capital Regional District provided $1,500 in funding.

The mural’s design is that of a mandala, a spiritual and ritual symbol representing the universe in Hinduism and Buddhism.

The mandala tie-in with the centre “was brilliant,” said Murphy. “Some people will do a year-journey creating their mandala — it’s pretty amazing stuff. We told [Kuyper] we wanted the design to be bright, positive, colourful and happy.”

The wall faces Wark Street commons, “so we wanted it to reflect how cool that space is.”

It's a good way to begin sprucing up the building, which has been home to the counselling centre for 25 years, Murphy said. Hopefully, the rest of the building will be painted soon with a new coat of grey paint.

“It’s going pretty good,” said Kuyper on Sunday as she puts the final strokes on the mural.

“This is the first mural I’ve ever done and it’s been quite the experience,” said Kuyper. “A lot of guys in the neighbourhood who are house painters have come up and given me some tips, like how to paint on stucco and what paints I should and shouldn’t use.”

She was nervous about her first mural, specifically having to paint in front of an audience.

Her job was made a lot easier by the donation of a scissor lift by WesternOne, a local rental company. Kuyper’s had lots of friends and family drop by to help out.

“We’re doing a lot of the detailing today and finishing touches so we’re hoping the top bit will be done [Sunday] and if not we’ll come by Monday and finish it up,” she said.

Kuyper chose the mandalas as a way to incorporate flower-like designs that have a deeper meaning. “There is a floral motif in them,” she said.

The psychological aspect of the mandalas and their role in inner searching worked well with the counselling aspect of the centre, said Kuyper. “It all came together and it was quite perfect,” she said.

She’s happy to help out a community organization, saying “it’s a natural thing — you do what you got to do for your community and your neighbourhood.”

Kuyper leaves in about three weeks for England. She’s been getting lots of advice on the best place in England for fish, chips and beer from the seniors she interacts with at her other job, at a local seniors home.

“The majority are from England,” she said. “I’m probably going to be living off fish and chips and beer.”

Painting a mural can be hard on your shoulders, she said, “but my best friend is a masseuse so I’m going to go to her afterwards.”

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