The corner of Yellowknife’s 50 Street and 52 Avenue got an upgrade last Friday with the 5052 Community Mural Project – a collaboration between the Foster Family Coalition (FFC), Tree of Peace, and Makerspace Yellowknife.

The project, named for its location, is a 10-panel mural created through a collaboration among Yellowknife youth and established artists. 

Korry Garvey, program coordinator with the Foster Family Coalition, says it’s nice to see public art around town, and that murals promote community engagement and positive mental health, even for passersby. 

Artist Michael Fatt, right, and two youth, left, put the finishing touches on the mural panels.
Photos courtesy of Korry Garvey

For over a year, the five mentoring artists and eight youth met on Saturdays to work on the mural from concept creation to completion. At first, the group met weekly, though they had to take a Covid-related pause earlier this year until the weather allowed the artists to work outside.

John Rombough, left, and Lois Anderson work together to paint a scene of Northern lights gazers.

The youth were between 10 and 20 years old and participation was not limited to kids in foster care.

Terry Pamplin, one of the featured artists, says the mentoring aspect is key.

As a lifelong artist, Pamplin says he often felt he was on the periphery of social circles growing up. He sees projects like 5052 as a space for “young people in that same category” to be “recognized and accepted.” 

Pamplin says the circle panels that the group decided on “represent the circle of life, the circle of family and the strength of a circle.”

“It’s a very powerful symbol,” he says. 

Pamplin describes the artists moving from panel to panel, adding to their peers’ work and learning from each other’s techniques. In that way, he says, there is no pointing to one panel to say “Terry did this, or someone else did that… it is in the truest sense a collaborative mural.”

Pamplin adds that the teaching relationship is “almost like a grandfather, grandson type of sharing.”

Alongside Pamplin, the other featured artists on the project were Michael Fatt, John Rombough, Amelie Duval and Christina Moore.

The project was funded through a $20,000 grant FFC received from the RBC Future Launch Community Challenge, through the Yellowknife Community Foundation.  

On Monday, the FFC hosted a dinner to celebrate the project’s completion and to debrief on lessons learned. Garvey says the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and that they’re looking into funding future art projects and are also working with Mahalia Yakeleya-Newmark on Strong People, Strong Communities  – an NWT mural project also focused on engaging youth and mentorship.

The 5052 Community Mural team celebrates the completed project Monday.

One artist told Garvey that as she was leaving the building, a stranger passing by stopped and exclaimed, “It’s so beautiful.” For the artist, the interaction was heartening.

Garvey says it’s important for the youth to be involved in something “that will be around for a long time,” and to be able to point to a public installation and feel proud.

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