A new mural will soon grace the downtown core of Merritt, but it will be in pieces.

The Loughery Mural Artworks Foundation’s Wayfinder Project, in collaboration with the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) and Embrace BC – a provincially-funded organization that provides funding opportunities for projects that promote anti-racism – have teamed up to bring Merritt this latest mural.

Loughery Mural Artworks Foundation representative Katie Mitchell told the Herald the creation of the mural has already begun. There are 12 students from an employment skills program at NVIT and about another six people from a youth centre in Vernon working on this mural under the leadership of artist Michelle Loughery.

Unlike Loughery’s country music murals, this mural will be an indoor installation and painted on a series of 12 four-foot-by-four-foot panels, similar to the murals that can be found around Spirit Square.

“We wanted to find a way to encourage people to actually go inside the community and look inside the businesses and buildings,” Mitchell said.

The series of paintings will be broken up and placed in businesses around the downtown area of Merritt, Mitchell said.

Each panel will be a piece of the larger mural image, she told the Herald.

“Looking at one single piece, you’ll get a feeling for the picture, but in order to explore the whole thing you’ll need to walk around town [and] go into a few different businesses to find out what the larger image is,” Mitchell said.

Under the leadership of Loughery, the students will work on each panel at the Desert Inn where visitors can stop in and check out their progress, she said.

The team will use encaustic painting, which involves heated beeswax and coloured pigments to paint the mural.

“You paint with this hot wax, blowtorches and basically big crayons. It’s pretty fun,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the theme of the mural is cultural and community bridging, incorporating the subject matter of Eastern Europeans who were interned at Canadian camps during the First World War with other discriminated immigrant groups and aboriginal peoples.

The Wayfinder Project aims to bridge the gap between cultures, explore various humanitarian issues amongst them and look at how they relate to each other, she said.

“What we want to do is create opportunities for conversation and cultural exploration so that we can all find a way to move forward as a united community rather than everyone holding on so fiercely to their independent cultures,” Mitchell said.

She said they want to show that every cultural groups has been through difficulties at some point in its history.

“I think the preservation of cultural history is really important, but there’s no need for that competitive injustice feeling.

“No one is more wronged than the other, and what we’d like to do is create a really healthy community that can move forward together.”

One piece of homework for those involved in painting the mural is to spend time with an elder in their families or community and get a story that relates to the subject matter of the mural.

“We’ll be attaching those stories to the images so that when people go and look at the image and see what it is, there will also be a story for them that will tell them a little bit about the feeling and about how this art came to be,” Mitchell said.

The completed mural will be unveiled on March 21, which is the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racism, Mitchell said. Time and place for the unveiling were not released.

At the unveiling, organizers plan to provide an opportunity for people to talk about their feelings on the topics of internment, discrimination and racism and discuss how to move forward as a community, she said.

Mitchell said she thinks people are not familiar with the history of the First World War in Canada and thinks this group has gone out of its way to treat this as an education opportunity for the students who are involved.

“It isn’t something that I remember learning about in school,” Mitchell said.

In January, upon conclusion of the employment skills program the recruited painters came from, the Wayfinder Project held a workshop with the students and people who had either experienced discrimination directly or were descendants of people who had been discriminated against.