›› Laura Benoit
If you’ve strolled down Gladstone Avenue by Fernwood Road recently, you may have noticed something new sprawled across the brick wall next to Studio 1313. This mural from self-taught Victoria-based artist Collin Elder was completed at the end of September.
Elder, who studied wildlife biology, made the transition to art after working in ecological conservation. “I am mostly inspired by wildlife,” Elder says. “I do a lot of landscapes. I started doing murals a few years ago, mostly private commissions to start with. It has been great to get a piece for the public, with the help of the Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group.”
Fernwood NRG conducted an online survey to incorporate community feedback on the design of the mural. “The overwhelming majority of people wanted a mural focusing on local biodiversity,” says Elder. “Having worked in restoration here on the island, I got to know the local plants and animals that are here. I wanted to incorporate these small flora and fauna that aren’t really seen much, to make them large and bring them into public awareness.”
If you visit the mural, you might recognize some of these elements—and you may notice some you have never seen before. “The barn owl is obviously a rare, endangered owl,” Elder remarks. “The moth I put up is a rare moth that only exists in Garry Oak meadows. The turkey tail mushroom is inspired by a type of fungi that lives in the forests here. And the camas flower was a staple of First Nations land use, pre-colonization.”
Elder hopes that, upon viewing the mural, visitors are reminded that we have the ability to decide the future of these plants and animals. “We are at this point where the way we focus our attention on conservation and development has an impact on these things,” he says. The next time you visit your favorite local Fernwood business, stop by to see the mural—and keep an eye out for these rare flora and fauna around the island. Thank you to the local businesses who donated materials to this mural, including Sunbelt Rentals and Cook Street Castle, and special thanks to the City of Victoria My Great Neighbourhood Grant for providing funding for the mural.