Competing petitions over controversial Vernon murals show clear leader

Anti-mural petition leads

Duelling petitions both for and against some controversial murals planned for downtown Vernon have been active for a month now.

And it appears quite clear where residents stand.

Almost 4,000 people have added their names to the petition opposing the Behind the Mask mural project.

In contrast, fewer than 1,500 have signed a petition supporting the murals that was created a day after the original petition.

"The people have spoken ... it is obvious people in Vernon do not want these," Vernon resident Clive Gates wrote in an email sent to members of Vernon city council.

"Please cancel this project immediately."

As of Thursday afternoon, 3,893 had signed the petition against the murals, while 1,456 had signed the petition in favour.

Council initially approved the project, which is a collaboration between Vernon Public Art Gallery and Turning Points, but sent it back to the gallery on June 13 for public consultation after reaction came swiftly in opposition to it.

The project would see 11 murals at locations across downtown, taken from photographs of the makers of the masks, which they created themselves as part of a mental health project through Turning Points.

Since then, the gallery has invited the public to come to the gallery and learn the story behind the masks, which some have dubbed scary and inappropriate outside of a gallery setting.

"(That) is the most meaningful and effective way for the public to truly understand what it's really about and why it has a place in Vernon's public art," gallery executive director Dauna Kennedy said.

While council members have lauded the spirit behind the project, some have criticized the lack of public engagement before the murals were announced.

It is still up in the air whether the project will go ahead.

Meanwhile, anti-mask petition creator Sharmay Taylor updated the campaign, urging signers to write directly to City Hall.

"The pro-mural petition is gaining a lot of signatures. They have now organized a letter writing campaign to the councillors to give the ... idea that just as many like them as are against them," Taylor wrote.

"Unless the city gets a flood of 'anti' letters, I don't think they'll change their minds."

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