Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

Vancouver Island Regional Library says it hopes to introduce “place-making initiatives” at more of its branches following the completion of a mural at its Nanaimo Harbourfront branch.

The mural is VIRL’s first attempt at a large-scale outdoor installation. The concept’s focus is a celebration of music and literacy and includes interactive elements such as sheet music by Juno-winning jazz artist, Christine Jensen, and catalogue codes to books available in the library system.

Facing out to Diana Krall Plaza, the mural was completed by Nanaimo-based duo Humanity in Art and funded by a $7,061 grant from the Government of Canada’s $60-million Healthy Communities Initiative managed by Community Foundations of Canada as well as the Nanaimo Foundation.

“The mural has been a great place-making initiative for the Vancouver Island Regional Library and Nanaimo,” Natasha Bartlett, VIRL’s divisional manager of marketing and communications, said. “We are looking forward to investing in other place-making initiatives that build community and reimagine our public spaces.”

The library did not provide a definition for place-making initiatives nor how feasible such initiatives may be given that 88 per cent of the system’s branches are leased spaces, according to the 2023 facilities master plan. The Gabriola Island branch is leased while Nanaimo Harbourfront is one of seven owned branches.

VIRL said the downtown Nanaimo mural took four years to complete.

While the facilities master plan does not specifically reference place-making initiatives, it outlines design principles for buildings including that “warm, welcoming interiors are reflective and celebratory of the history and culture” of communities and that exteriors give consideration to “outdoor spaces that can offer community gathering space and programming opportunities.”

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