Master Muralist, Visionary
and Art Educator
Hello I am Artist Michelle Loughery. And I am known for larger than life mural projects around the globe and wild contemporary art works that happen in my farm studio. I have been on wall around the world painting heritage, country music icon murals, Route 66 murals and well even Elvis Presley. A fun and wild ride as that was. Now that I am a grandmother, I would like to invite you to participate in the Wayfinder Sunflower Project.
I would like to invite all of you to create a Wayfinder Project in your community. Create an art sunflower, Create a Song, plant a sunflower or what ever the Sunflower means to you.
All I ask is that you connect with us by tagging your creation #thesunflowerproject.ca #artistmichelleloughery #wayfinderart #wayfinderartroute
WHY? Because we are creating a global niceness renewal intention. To connect with the awakening of people place and planet first. And to help bring light to this covid crunched world.
But first let me tell you a story.
Although I am known for painting many historic murals and for creating iconic art projects around the world. Coming to Vernon was a launch to a career that I would never imagine would help me give peace to a family history mystery.
I am also a history seeker and heritage photos fascinate me. When young my mom would tell me the family story that her father had lost his brother. He had run away or so the family was told. My mom was very sad as she told me that my Guido had looked for him for decades.
The story was tragic and there was much shame and sadness around her eyes and my grandmothers eyes when this story was told. Years ago while painting a mural in Vernon, B.C, I happened to find a letter in the museum from an old Taxidermy Shop. The letter was from the man that ran the Vernon Taxidermy store here in Vernon and he was writing to a John Sanyshyn. The photo of the man's store was in my list to paint as a mural in the downtown. When I read the unique name I took the letter to my mom. My mother's family is from Alberta and as we went through more papers it became apparent somethings did not make sense. Papers were confusing and what was a family mystery became apparent to me to be part of a injustice secret in Canada.
Then through another mural connection I met Andrea Malysh, the executive director of the World War One Internment Recognition Fund, she was also the great granddaughter of people I painted on a multicultural mural I created in Vernon. After a very long conversation the mystery was solved. My great uncle did not run away, he was interned in a Canadian Internment work camp.
I learned that this story was much darker and deeper. I learned that my great grandfather was in the camps. And I learned of the hard life my great grandmother had as she tried to manage with her men locked in camps for no reason other than being from Ukraine.
The stories are heartbreaking. The effects on the family and the internee descendants of this time in history are hard to listen to. But through stories and art we can heal.
My mother who is interned again because of covid represents many internee descendants. She helped create the stamp that is widely used to support the fund that has been given the stewardship to tell all about this not so proud part of Canadian History.
What is in your past is your roots, but what is in your future is in the seeds of hope you sow.
I had the honour of being the internee representative on the Canadian World War One Internment Recognition Fund for a year.
June 20th, 2020 marked 100 years of freedom for my mothers people is part of an upcoming anniversary of the freedom of the Austro European immigrants in Canada who lost their freedoms after being invited to come buy land by the Canadian Government.
My family was one of those families that was interned. This history has left scars in my roots. It is ironic that my mom, as many others that are internee descendants as well, are living their golden years interned again.
100 years later, Covid has brought us the gift to stand in the place of lost freedoms and lost voices together. I wish I could give my Guido the peace and pride he would have gotten from knowing this. The shame of the treatment for being from Ukraine permeated his soul. He did not know that the story was not of failure but of rights taken.
Please plant a sunflower in honour of anyone past, present who has stood in this place. The sunflowers can symbolize all those that built our infrastructure on the face of lost freedoms. Please plant a sunflower in honour of all nationalities as we work toward a inclusive renewal.
Take the Wayfinder Challenge and share your Wayfinder Community art-in-action to The Sunflower Project for a chance to be showcased!