Karla Pearce watches one of her paintings go up in flames on March 18, 2022. Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

By Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Karla Pearce watched through tears as her personal artwork went up in flames on Friday (March 18).

Three of the Kamloops artist’s paintings were burned in a bonfire along a beach of the Thompson River near the airport — a self-inflicted act.

Pearce destroyed her paintings as a message to the provincial government that more income assistance is needed for those living along the poverty line.

The acrylic paintings burned quickly, the most poignant and symbolic of Pearce’s message being a self-portrait, as flames crawled up the canvass and engulfed the Mona Lisa-like smiling woman, leaving just ash and a hollowed, charred frame behind.

Pearce hopes that sacrificing her artwork will bring  about a discussion concerning poverty in B.C.

She knows first-hand what it’s like to struggle making ends meet. Pearce, who is on disability, said she lives on just $140 a month after her $1,250 rent is subtracted from her $1,390 a month income.

“I am personally struggling to survive on disability,” she said.

Pearce said she was evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic and knows of a few friends who found themselves in similar situation, faced with rising rental costs.

Pearce said she is burning the artwork to raise awareness of the “shameful way” the B.C. government treats its most vulnerable people.

“The cost of living way exceeds what people are given in social assistance, old age security and disability,” she said, adding all three income assistance levels need to be raised.

According to the provincial government’s website, depending on a person’s living status (single, partners, families), monthly old age security payments range up to $220.50, social assistance payouts vary from $500, $750 and $900 a month and monthly disability payments range from $983.50 to $1,728.58.

As for what Pearce would like to see income assistance raised to, she said she felt the federal government got it right during COVID-19 when it doled out $2,000 cheques to help those impacted by the pandemic.

“I am so sickened and hurt by what is happening that I am compelled into action,” she said. “This burning is partly out of desperation, not only for myself, but also for friends, families and neighbours who are living in extreme poverty.”

This item is reprinted with permission from Kamloops This Week, Kamploops, British Columbia. See article HERE.

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