Community builder, mural artist to make a lasting mark on campus
If you walk into Zap Copy today, you’ll see hand-painted bio-scenery splashed across a wall in the student-run print shop. The newest art mural at UVic, by Kay Gallivan, is part of an ongoing initiative to showcase more student art in UVSS-managed spaces.
I chanced upon Gallivan working on the wall late at night during exam season, surrounded by Christmas-themed Starbucks cups filled with house paint and a half-eaten box of Chinese takeout. She was working in a silence broken only by the hum of fluorescent lights.
The finished mural is a showcase of interwoven blue herons, bull kelp, cyanescens, and turkey tail mushrooms — portraits of animals and nature native to the Lekwungen territories.
“I wanted to paint a mural that represented local biodiversity,” said Gallivan. “[I’m] trying to create this surreal sense that you don’t know exactly where you are, whether you’re underwater or up in the sky.”
Gallivan also had to manage the challenge of a restricted colour palette. “It can throw off the white balance of the copy centre if you decorate with a lot of colours,” she said. “They needed me to do black-and-white, and I almost never paint in black-and-white.” The mural is also a departure from Gallivan’s usual style of dreamy and symbolic block printing.
Currently back in UVic for a post-degree professional program in education, Gallivan’s easygoing, paint-splattered self belies the depth of her accomplishments as a creative. Her work has existed in places ranging from the main stage of Koksilah festival in Duncan, B.C. to yoga retreats in Troncones, Mexico. Deeply immersed in the Victoria creative community, she has most recently co-curated Waste Land: A Climate Anxiety Haunted House, a pop-up art exhibition held in a pre-demolition house.
The artist also has a deep connection to UVic. “I did a history degree [at UVic] many years ago. But while I was doing my history degree I was always getting away and doing street art on the side,” said Gallivan. “Eventually it turned into my job.”
An extensive contributor and volunteer in many campus organizations during her undergrad, Gallivan has been involved in CFUV as a coordinator for the Women’s Radio Collective and oversaw a then-contentious name change of the UVSS Women’s Centre to Third Space (which has since quietly rebranded to the Gender Empowerment Centre) as its communications and outreach coordinator. She has also written and co-directed a documentary through VIPIRG (which terminated its relationship with the UVSS in 2019) on the demise of the Esquimalt Trackside Gallery.
Gallivan has been influential in shaping campus culture as we know it, though some of her efforts have been muffled as organizations rebrand and move around over time. This time, her mark on campus might last a little longer. The walls will tell of her stories.