The Indigenous mural at Brentwood Elementary has been a sight that cheered up many who passed by it since it was unveiled last June, but it unfortunately was the target of vandalism last weekend.
Chris Fuchs and his three kids Vanessa, Macey, and Peyton were bicycling through the community when they saw the vandalism. Once they saw it, Fuchs said he and his kids all had to do something about it and couldn't simply leave it.
"It was the racial slur on it that was that hit home pretty hard, my daughter's best friend is African-American and I felt really bad about this girl going back to school on Monday and seeing that. So on our ride back home on the bikes, we talked about it lots and my daughter was very, very upset about this. And I brought up the idea to go try to remove some of, it and she was excited," Fuchs said.
Turning a negative situation like this into a positive one is something Fuchs is always looking to do. He explained he works with the charity group The Risk Takers, which is a peer support group that deals with mental health and addiction. Through this experience, Fuchs said he knows that any bad situation can be turned into something better so long as you're willing to do the work.
"We're always that family that's trying to find a positive out of every negative, and it's always trying to steer my kids in the right direction, away from mental health and addiction problems, and find positives and get involved in the community and doing things. When I saw that and my daughter and I talked about it, the first thought was 'well, somebody should clean this off, let's do it.' And this is a perfect way to teach my kids healthy community values," he said.
While Fuchs, his kids, and the two boys who joined in were the ones who did the initial cleanup, Brentwood Principal Danielle Seabrook explained the response she heard from the community showed there are many willing to do what they can.
"I had people reach out to me via e-mail and say, 'hey, I'm an artist, is there anything that you need help with, whether it be in the cleaning process or in the restoration process? Anything we can do to help maintain the integrity of the artwork?' They were willing to lend a helping hand," Seabrook said.
Among the artists were also hundreds of messages letting her know it happened, and many people were upset and wanted to see what they could do.
"The feelings that it evoked yesterday as a result of the vandalism is just a testament to the impact it has had on the community," she said.
The mural represents connection and community, and even though it was the target of hateful vandalism the original intent is stronger than ever. Not only did the community openly denounce the actions of vandalism, but many people like Fuchs are willing to step in and make sure that hate doesn't win.
"Having the kids involved in the cleaning, it's just a testament to their character and also to the sense of community,' Seabrook said
Seabrook said she and Strathmore High School Principal Doug Raycroft are discussing potential next steps, including whether or not to get RCMP involved. They will review the information they have and go from there.
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