This year, BCAA joined the ranks as one of our BC Culture Days Premiere Sponsors. Their partnership has provided support for the annual provincial launch event and ongoing outreach projects, including the BC Culture Days Ambassador Program, but BCAA wanted to go one step further...
BCAA is involved in another initiative called BCAA Play Here. The initiative funds play spaces across the province that are in desperate need of revitalization so children have better places to play and develop valuable life skills. This year, 4 winners were announced, one of which being Bouchie Lake Elementary in Quesnel.
As creativity and play are so closely intertwined, BCAA and BC Culture Days decided to facilitate the construction of a public art piece as part of the play space revitalization at Bouchie Lake Elementary. "Fire Bears" were constructed and designed by local artist Leigh Cassidy, along the new playground's fencing with hopes that the school children would be inspired by the piece and practice their own art, whatever that may be. The official unveiling of the playground, outdoor classroom and the "Fire Bears" took place on October 5th to the delight of the children and the surrounding community. To learn more about how the community banded together to make this project possible, BC Culture Days spoke to PAC executives, PAC treasurer Tarin Lefebvre and PAC president Delanie Neville, who worked with BCAA to help coordinate the construction of the playground and outdoor classroom - read the interview below.
How did the Play Here project come to Quesnel? What did the planning process look like?
Tarin and Delanie: Our first step was entering the BCAA Play Here contest online. As a PAC and along with our school principal, we put together an application write-up and went from there. As the contest continued to play out, we met regularly and decided on actions we would take via social media, working through how to engage with our community to get enough votes to be able to be in the top communities applying for funding.
Did the building of the playground bring the community together? What was the reaction once it was built and how has it improved the area?
Tarin and Delanie: The whole contest process was done along with the community. Local businesses and community members were on board 100% from the get-go. Community members helped spread the word about voting each day and businesses advertised for us to encourage votes for Bouchie Lake Elementary, offering incentives to local voters to keep the momentum going. When it was announced that we were one of the winning recipients and when the building process began, the community's reaction was one of excitement and heartfelt spirit. It really brought the community of Bouchie Lake and Quesnel together for the common goal of bringing forth a new play space together for the kids. Our new area can be seen from the Nazko Hwy, in front of the school. It looks so amazing and has brought forth a lot of positive feedback. It will be there for countless years to bring people together and make lasting memories.
How did you select an artist for the public art addition to the playground? Do you think the art piece adds to the feel of the space?
Tarin and Delanie: Leigh Cassidy is a local artist that frequents our Quesnel Arts & Recreation Center and is known locally for her artistic and creative abilities. She was a perfect choice to paint the "Fire Bears". The bears add a feeling of whimsy and wonder to the new area. They tie in with our outdoorsy, rural feel and the fact that Leigh painted them in memory of the 2017 BC Wildfires adds to the existing feeling of community. We came together this summer to help our fellow neighbouring areas that were evacuated and needed help, just as we came together to make this dream of a new playground through BCAA Play Here.
What were the children's reactions to the piece?
Tarin and Delanie: The children were very excited to see the bears. Last year, the students at Bouchie Lake painted and hung their own animals cutouts along the school fence, so to have these new additions to our already animal-designed theme was perfect.
What do you think having an art piece in the playground will teach children about creativity and the arts?
Tarin and Delanie: We think it will help remind the kids of the fires this year, of the work we all put in as a community to make the playground build a reality, and that if you put your mind to anything, it can come true. We taught the students that "Bouchie Lake Believes" and we think that through our outstanding endeavours this year, they will have this memory for many years to come. They will remember too that so many community members had a part in this, including the artist that painted the bears and the people that cared about our school and the community of Bouchie Lake to come together and help us win this prize.
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