VIU Public Art Promises to Bring Smiles and Inspiration on Rainy Days

VIU alumni Lindsay Malbon, left, and Laura Timmermans, centre, were joined by Mackenzie Sillem, Co-ordinator of Intercultural Learning & Support at VIU, right, as they revealed one of 15 Rainworks designs installed on the Nanaimo campus.

August 29, 2018 - 2:00pm

VIU alumni and faculty use Rainworks to welcome new and returning students 

Accessible to all, public art has the power to energize community spaces, promote discussion and debate, and transform the places we work, live, learn and play.

Inspired by their mutual love of place making and public art, two Vancouver Island University (VIU) alumni, Lindsay Malbon and Laura Timmermans, collaborated with various VIU departments to install an art project around the Nanaimo campus.

Malbon and Timmermans became friends while attending VIU. Last year, Timmermans, a Graphic Design graduate, completed the design for a guidebook Malbon produced as part of her Master of Community Planning thesis. They noticed that not only did they make a great team, but their skills in urban planning and graphic design complemented each other really well.

Motivated by the positive memories they shared at VIU, they decided to find a fun way to bring more vibrancy and enjoyment to the public spaces on campus.

“A few years ago Laura [Timmermans] installed a public art piece for the City of Nanaimo called Salmon on the Bridge. It incorporated a design activated by water,” says Malbon. “I was inspired by this. For the VIU project, I wanted to ensure we worked with a sustainable company; that’s when I found Rainworks.”

Rainworks art pieces are created using a non-toxic, environmentally safe and biodegradable spray from Seattle that creates invisible pieces of art designed to only appear in the rain.

“Laura and I thought a design activated by water would be a perfect fit because we live in the Pacific Northwest, which receives a lot of rain,” says Malbon. “We wanted the campus community to have a reason to smile on rainy days and to celebrate the rain – and we thought we could achieve this through art.”

Mackenzie Sillem, Co-ordinator of Intercultural Learning & Support at VIU, is the staff sponsor for the project. She said one common goal of all departments at VIU is to continually work together to make the University a welcoming and inclusive place for students, staff, faculty and the larger community that VIU is part of.

“The Rainworks project is exciting because it is a creative and innovative way to initiate a shared experience that can connect us to each other and to this place,” says Sillem. “Public art like this is a powerful way to bring positivity and optimism into people’s lives.”

This desire to spread positivity has been carried forward into the designs themselves.

“The messages and images we have chosen are intended to amplify the voices of encouragement and affirmation that exist in our world, but are not always given enough attention,” notes Sillem. “I think it speaks to the culture of VIU that a creative and arts-based approach to inclusion has been so widely supported by our community.”

The team was strategic about where they installed the art, not only because Rainworks requires clean, white and smooth concrete to provide enough contrast for the designs to show up when it rains, but also to maximize the number of people their project reaches.

“We put a lot of thought into where we placed the art, concentrating on highly visible, high-traffic areas, to ensure everyone – students, faculty, staff and visitors – have an opportunity to enjoy it,” says Timmermans.

The team intends to reveal the art using buckets of water (in the absence of rain) during the RockVIU student orientation on August 30. The art is expected to last anywhere between two and four months.

Staff from the following departments helped make this project a reality: Student Residences, Faculty of International Education, Masters of Community Planning, Centre of Experiential Learning, Gymnasium/Athletics, the Provost’s Office, Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning, VP Finance and the Faculty of Management.




Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6559 | C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews


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