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Canadian artist honours journalists fighting for truth during National Newspaper Week

Ola Volo aims to 'spark conversation' about the role of the media in building Canadian communities with Champion The Truth limited edition and signed print, with proceeds donated to Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Tri-City residents can own a limited-edition signed print by a popular Canadian artist while supporting journalism, thanks to a new art project by former Coquitlam resident Ola Volo.

Volo, who created the mural covering the whole east wall of a new production facility for Rocky Point Ice Cream, close to Rocky Point Park in Port Moody, has now embarked on a new endeavour.

Volo’s Champion The Truth art collection, featuring a limited-edition signed print and journal, is launching just in time for National Newspaper Week (Oct. 3 to 9). 

“It’s a big honour but also a big responsibility to represent this vast subject as a nation. How do we represent it in one image?” Volo told the Tri-City News.

Dividing her time between Coquitlam, where she grew up, and Montreal, Volo said she hopes the image of three journalists is relatable. At the same time, she said, the two women and one man pictured could also be readers.

They hold smart phones and newspapers, and one of the characters has a camera representing both how we consume our news, as well as produce it.

“The image integrates a Montreal reference [and also] Halifax and Calgary. I put them all in there it’s like an Easter egg hunt to find what you connect to,” she said.

There’s a hint of John Lennon, who was a political artist as well as pop star, in one of the characters, and while Volo didn’t say that The Beatles’ frontman was an inspiration, she acknowledged that journalists require courage to operate in today’s challenging media landscape.

“I was imaging this journalist: independent and who’s got a lot on his mind.”

Similar to her popular mural at Rocky Point Ice Cream, this image has a lot of Easter Eggs to surprise and intrigue.

The print doesn’t specifically reference the pandemic; Volo said she wanted it to be timeless. But she credited newspapers for providing credible information that’s important for Canadians dealing with the impact of COVID-19.

"I found during the pandemic they were the thing that brought most people together, they told people what’s happening around the corner and how we can help," said Volo.

Noting that information from credible sources is critical for managing during the pandemic, Volo encouraged people to check their sources.

"It's more important now than it ever has been," Volo said.

Weather, which Canadians experienced a lot of this year with storms and heat waves, features prominently in the art work, along with iconic images representing the vast Canadian landscape.

While researching the image, Volo spoke with people who work in the field. 

Volo said she met virtually with newspaper founders, journalists and others in the industry from towns both large and small to get ideas. “That was fascinating to me at how big of a role papers play in smaller towns,” Volo said.

Originally from Kazakhstan and the daughter of Russian and Polish immigrants, Volo's Eastern European background features prominently in her art. Her whimsical style with folklorist touches is evident in Champion The Truth and Volo told the Tri-City News that newspapers, both in English and Russian, were important in helping her family integrate into Canadian society.

According to a press release, the goal of the art collection is to spark conversation about journalism’s ability to speak the truth and shed light on important issues among local communities. Proceeds from the sales of the Champion The Truth collection will be donated to Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.

The collection includes a limited-edition signed print and a soft-cover journal and can be purchased online.