Stony Plain: 'Punching above [its] weight when it comes to public art'
'Lots of cool murals that celebrate the heritage of the town'
Judy Bennett gazes fondly at her favourite mural in her hometown of Stony Plain, Alta.
"To me it's just downright grass roots. This is the way things happened. Around a kitchen table, talked about things that needed to be done and how they could do it together," said the town councillor.
The mural by James Mackay was commissioned in 2012 by cooperatives like banks, grocery stores and insurance companies in the community to mark the 100th anniversary of co-ops.
The mural is one of nearly 40 dotting the town 40 kilometres west of Edmonton. The works not only draw tourists but are also a point of civic pride.
You can see more from the town of Stony Plain on Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV and CBC GEM.
Bennett says since the first mural was unveiled around 30 years ago, they have come to adorn dry cleaning shops, hair salons, the post office and the arena.
The murals depict the town's past and colourful characters like local NHL goalie great Glenn Hall, long-serving country physician Dr. Richard Oatway, and teenage translator and telephone operator Ottilia Zucht, who could speak five languages.
In a normal year, tourists can hop aboard a horse-drawn wagon with long-time tour guide Greg Hanna. In a pandemic year, Bennett encourages people to walk or drive the mural route using a map available on the town's website.
"We wanted these murals to be outside, so they were always accessible and what a great idea that was, especially during the pandemic," Bennett said.
Mayor William Choy stands in front of the newest mural in the pedestrian tunnel below the CN rail line just off the skateboard park at 4401 49th Avenue.
The bright colours, messages of hope and pineapples wearing sunglasses make the mural "awesome," Choy says.
"That's a living, breathing wall, allowing residents to express themselves in a productive and friendly manner," he says.
This summer, the town partnered with artists Daphne Côté and AJA Louden, short for Adrian Joseph Alexander, to host a public art project featuring an introduction to graffiti-style art.
"The murals allow us to showcase the history and past of Stony Plain but also allows us to move forward such as the projects here," Choy says. "A new generation of art and thinking."
Louden, an Edmonton-based contemporary urban muralist, worked with about a dozen skateboard and scooter kids and other residents who showed up to learn.
"I think we brought about 50 or 60 cans of spray paint," Louden recalls.
"My favourite part was watching that eureka moment, when people finally figure out a new trick with the spray can or realize that they could," he says.
"They maybe didn't see themselves as an artist before this and they've started to find a medium that felt fun and felt new. That's really exciting."
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Louden hopes to return next summer for more sessions at the skateboard park.
"I've always been impressed with communities like Stony Plain for punching above their weight when it comes to public art, lots of cool murals that celebrate the heritage of the town."