Whether you like NorthMart’s new mural or not, the project is a great example of how Inuvik’s youth can be engaged and empowered through art.  

Patrick Thompson, an artist who works primarily out of Cape Dorset, Nunavut, designed the mural at the library with the help of more than 20 Inuvik youth aged nine to 13.

Opinions about the bright, whimsical mural are strong. It seems people either love it or hate it, and there is no in between.

That’s expected, and I would argue that it’s a good thing as it shows people are interested in what happens in their community. People care about what happens in their town – a lot – and that’s important.

However, I wish I was hearing more conversations about what the mural means for its local youth artists rather than if it is attractive or not.  

The mural’s aesthetic value is subjective, but the positive impact it has on the youth who designed the mural’s animals is obvious.  

It isn’t every day that a young person’s art will be displayed anywhere but in their classroom or on their family’s refrigerator.

The fact that they can now see their art displayed on a public building is definitely a source of pride, empowerment and excitement for the youth that participated in creating it, as well as their families.

Walking by the mural this week, I heard two young people pointing out the shapes they had made, and how excited they were to see their work displayed.

For youth to know that their work is valued and important enough to be permanently on display in public will be a major confidence boost that will likely extend to other areas of their lives, whether it is confidence in the classroom, on their sports team or even in their future artistic endeavours.

Thompson told me that one of the youth who worked on the project was really not interested at first, but by the end of the session, that youth ended up being the most excited about it.

That just goes to show that the project was stimulating and engaging for the youth involved.

I think I speak for most people when I say that we want Inuvik’s youth to be involved in the community in positive ways, and this was most certainly an example of that.

I hope that when we look at the new mural, we will first and foremost see it as a symbol of youth empowerment and engagement.

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