As part of their “Your Actions Save Lives” campaign, the State of California worked with local artists to produce fourteen original works of public art to reach communities that were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic throughout the state. Developed in partnership with The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, the program highlights artwork with empowering public health messages of protecting one another, resilience and community.
Emily Carr University alum Sunroop Kaur (BFA 2019) was one of the fourteen artists chosen and her mural Basant (which translates to “spring” in Punjabi) graces the side of a private business at the corner of East Main Street and Grant Street in downtown Stockton.
In an interview with Fox 40, Sunroop shares that the mural has many meanings, but a predominant one being to capture the moment of universal longing where we want to be close to our loved ones but in order to keep them safe, we need to stay at a distance.
Alumni Relations chatted with Sunroop about this incredible project and what it was like designing for such a large wall as her second mural.
“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the Punjabi Sikh community and have this public platform to amplify South Asian narratives,” shared Sunroop. “Representation and increasing visibility have always been a huge driving force for my practice.”
“It has been lovely to show my family and grandparents how powerful art can be,” continued Sunroop. “My Nani was emotional seeing the mural and incredibly proud. From what I understand, I was also the youngest artist part of this campaign and I am very honored to have been given this chance.”
Sunroop was previously a fabricator for the Vancouver Mural Festival collaborative project, Komagata Maru Mural Project: Taike-sye’yə with Musqueam artists Alicia Point and Cyler Sparrow-Point and South-Asian Canadian artists Keerat Kaur and Sandeep Johal and historian Naveen Girn. This project was the first mural both designed and painted by Sunroop and her second mural overall.
“Designing a project of this scale was very intimidating,” shared Sunroop. “Due to the high-profile nature of the campaign, I often felt under qualified and overwhelmed.”
Despite any doubts the artist may have had, the project came to fruition beautifully. “Thankfully I was given autonomy over my project and had full creative control,” explained Sunroop. “Since I had to select my own wall space, I knew exactly what space I was designing for and made a sketch that was site-specific. Given the size of the wall, I had to remember a lot of the details would translate very differently once scaled up. I needed to be malleable and open to changing design elements throughout the fabrication process.”
Although Sunroop is still pursuing a full-time fine art practice and generally only takes on projects through application-based public art programs or ones she’s recommended for, she shared a bit of advice for artists looking to get started in murals: “Applying to the Vancouver Mural festival is a great start especially since they do not require previous mural experience,” explained the artist. “I would also recommend investing time into building a portfolio and reaching out to local businesses is the best way to find wall space. My current mural is on the side of a private business and it all started with simply walking in and introducing myself.”
For more of Sunroop’s work, visit her Instagram.