Hay River now has its own mural to celebrate Canada 150, and it’s a piece of art that hundreds of residents had a hand in creating.
Plus, it is also part of a symbolic train – even with train wheels pictured at the bottom – that will connect 150 communities when the national project is all said and done.
“What we’re doing is we’re trying to unite the entire country through art,” said Phil Alain, an Edmonton artist who is one of the key people behind the project as part of a group called Mural Mosaic. “So we’ve been travelling around Canada for the last two years. Our goal is to create 150 murals in 150 communities from coast to coast.”
Mural Mosaic is made up of three main artists – Alain and brothers Lewis Lavoie and Paul Lavoie – who have been doing murals all over the world since 2003.
Alain said each piece of art in the Canada 150 Mural Mosaic is designed to reflect a particular community.
“So then we get all the people from the community to all paint their tiles that will then be united to make the one bigger picture to represent their particular community,” he explained. “And when the mural for their community is completed, we connect them to all the other murals across the country, making a gigantic mural of a train connecting the whole country from coast to coast.”
When finished, the whole train will be viewed online.
Community participants are give guidelines on colours for their tiles.
“By using those particular colours they can paint whatever they like and then it’s my job to find a way to make the mural piece together to make one bigger picture,” said Alain. “So each tile represents an individual painting, but overall another image will come to life from all the individual paintings.”
Hay River’s mural – eight feet high by 12 feet wide – was unveiled at the Festival of Trees at Princess Alexandra School on Nov. 25.
It was created from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22 in the trades building of Diamond Jenness Secondary School.
In all, more than 450 community residents helped paint the more than 600 small tiles which make up the mural.
Hay River came to be involved in the project by personal connections.
One of the artists helping with the project is Chris Riley, a Spruce Grove, Alta., resident who is originally from Hay River.
Judy Goucher, the senior administrative officer with the Town of Hay River, happened to visit Riley when she was working on tiles for another community and heard about the project.
Riley was pleased to have Hay River involved and is now happy with the final product, which she and Lewis Lavoie designed with input from the town.
“I love it,” she said.
“I’m really quite proud of it because it really represents what I think of when I think of home,” she added. “I think it’s fantastic. I’m just bursting with pride.”
Not only did she design it, but Riley painted several tiles, featuring such images as a moose, inukshuk, dragonfly and bear.
The overall piece of art features a raven, an inukshuk, the outline of the NWT polar bear licence plate and Diamond Jenness Secondary School – the famed purple school.
Stacey Barnes, the council administrator, helped organize the project for the Town of Hay River and is also pleased with the result, calling it “absolutely amazing.”
She was happy with the community involvement in creating the mural.
“It was great to have all the schools participate,” she said. “We had some offices come as a team-building exercise. We had the Brownies and the Girl Guides and Pathfinders come in the evenings.”
Barnes herself even painted two tiles for the mural – a Northern lights sunset and what she described as a Tim Burton-like tree.
The mural was completed on Nov. 22 but kept under wraps – even from the people painting the tiles – until it was unveiled at the Festival of Trees.
It will be displayed in the lobby of the swimming pool until it is moved into the new Rec Centre.
As of right now, it is the project’s only mural in the NWT, although Alain said there is an opportunity for a few more communities to get involved.
Right now, the nationwide project has created 92 murals and has 58 more to go.
“We’re going ’til next July,” said Alain, noting they have been working on the project since March 2015.
Each community funds its involvement in the project. In Hay River, it was funded as part of the downtown beautification initiative supported by the federal government’s Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program.
Mural Mosaic’s work can be seen all over the world. The group has done murals for Queen Elizabeth, the Vancouver Winter Olympics, the London Summer Olympics, the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, and many more.
It has even done a mural on the history of the United States.
However, its current project for Canada 150 is special, said Alain. “This project is our biggest one ever.”