Deanna Flinn is a multidisciplinary artist who has called Vancouver home for 15 years, and currently lives in the West End.
Several years ago she began experimenting with ‘continuous line’ drawings, which is when a pen or pencil stays in uninterrupted contact with the surface of the paper during the entire illustration process. In the spring of 2020 she received a $500 Neighbourhood Small Grant to create a continuous line mural with her neighbours.
Deanna started the project by approaching dozens of West End neighbours and encouraging them to draw a self-portrait using just one continuous line, and while their eyes were completely closed!
“This was the first time I wrote a grant and I got it! I started to collect the drawings in September, one by one I gathered them, there are 46 in total, 47 if you include mine,” said Flinn “It took a lot of planning to abide by the protocols for COVID.”
Originally she imaged the mural could be completed at a large public gathering, however COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions forced her to change her plans and meet with participants individually.
“I had a vision we could do it in the courtyard in front of Gordon House,” explained Flinn, “…with the restrictions COVID presented I was still able to get the same reaction from the participants, just on more of a one on one basis.” “…I think now more than ever we need to find ways to connect, and people are getting very creative in connecting at safe social distances and electronically. I wanted to show them how they could connect using art too.”
Most participants were apprehensive at first, however any nervousness was usually quickly replaced with laughter.
“Everyone resisted at first, insisting they couldn’t draw, then they would try and giggle the whole time,” explained the artist.
Once she collected enough drawings, Deanna used a projector to enlarge and paint the portraits onto five large wooden panels.
“I had to sort which faces went on which panels and how I would also include the name of the project ‘The People in Your Neighbourhood’. It was a bit like putting together a puzzle.”
The whole painting process took place over many days in Deanna’s small, West End studio apartment.
“I don’t have a lot of furniture so at each stage I was working with the panels I had to plan and schedule how the day would go so I would have room to move around. I listened to a lot of music while I was making this mural, it was a very cathartic experience for me.”
While painting the mural panels inside was very different than what she originally imagined, the project had some unintended positive results.
“I learned so much and I had such a good time, it helped me connect with my art in a way I didn’t think I could and it helped me connect with more people in my neighbourhood. I think it’s really important to express ourselves, especially in times of isolation and upheaval and I really hope the people who participated found that this helped them have a bit of fun and showed them how they are a part of a community.”
The finished mural is composed of five panels that are just under 8 feet tall, and when combined are over 12 feet long. It is a beautiful piece, and charmingly depicts our community, which was Deanna’s goal for the project.
“People need to feel connected, we are social animals by nature and I really wanted this project to provide that piece for people. Now they can go and search out their face and see it swimming around with a bunch of others. I also think it’s important to celebrate every member of our community, all shapes and sizes from all corners of the earth. We are social beings and we need authentic connection in our lives and I hope this mural gives the viewers and participants that feeling of inclusivity.”
Deanna’s mural is currently on display at Gordon Neighbourhood House in the heart of the West End at 1019 Broughton Street, and will be up for the month of January 2020. More of Deanna’s work can be found on her website www.freeadmission.ca and Instagram account @freeadmission.
This project was funded by the Responsive
Neighbourhood Small Grants program, which provides grants up to $500 to support
resident-led community projects. Gordon Neighbourhood House administers the
program for all residents on the downtown peninsula, and funding is generously provided
by Vancouver Foundation.
For more information about the Neighbourhood Small Grants program, visit neighbourhoodsmallgrants.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.