Reprieve for building’s razzle-dazzle paint job ‘a small victory for art’

The “razzle-dazzle” painting on the front wall of the former Vancouver Island School of Art looks like it’s here for the long haul.

The future of the distinctive artwork appeared to be in question after the Greater Victoria school district took over the building for office space. The art school has moved to the former Blanshard Elementary.

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Secretary-treasurer Mark Walsh said school district staff who will work at the site were given a say on the painting, and were neutral on the question of whether it should stay or go.

“I think it’s safe to say we intend to keep the paint job as is for the time being,” Walsh said.

“The only thing is that we’ve asked the community association to help us get feedback.”

So far, the community feedback to the school district has been positive, Walsh said.

Art school executive director Wendy Welch called the news about the building “a small victory for art in Victoria.”

The eye-catching combination of shapes and patterns is a reference to designs on Allied warships, largely in the First World War.

The razzle-dazzle motif was a form of camouflage created to make it hard for the enemy to determine the size and speed of vessels. The era represented by the painting ties in with the age of the building, which was built in 1921, Welch said.

She said the art school was in the Quadra Street building for 13 years before having to vacate, and paid $10,000 for the painting in 2014. It was designed by Xane St. Philip and painted by several street artists who also work as house painters.

They also worked on the mural at the back of the building, Welch said.

Walsh said he has contacted St. Philip about providing the community with some “context” about the painting.

“We want to work with him to get a plaque or something together.”

The 180-student art school is scheduled to remain at the former Blanshard Elementary until September 2020, when it is set to move to the ground floor of a Fifth Street residential complex. The development company, Aryze, wants to have two razzle-dazzle murals at the new location, Welch said.

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