Arts council aims to turn Slave Lake into another Stony Plain

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The Regional Arts Council (RAC) has big plans to ‘muralize’ Slave Lake. As explained to town council last week, the group hopes to have two downtown murals completed this year, with many more in the next few years.

All it takes, said RAC members Connie Baird and Sheri Smears, is money and permission.

Baird said the first one will go on the Legion – the only building for which permission has been secured so far. Others are pending.

The short-term goal, council heard, is “two to three murals each year,” for five to six years, mainly in the downtown area. Longer term, the plan is to “branch out to other areas,” Baird said.

To get an idea of the costs, the group has talked to Stony Plain, a town known for its public art. Baird said the estimate is $100 per square foot.

“We’re hoping for arts grants, sponsorship and Town of Slave Lake support,” Baird said.

Baird went on to explain that Stony Plain devotes a piece of its budget to arts and culture funding each year, and from this comes the money to do new murals and maintain existing ones. In the case of Slave Lake, “we don’t think it’s unrealistic to ask for funding, since we’re doing the leg-work and the planning.”

If funding for this summer’s mural project (or projects) is secured, the plan would be to put out a request for proposals from local or regional artists. If nobody is found, the search would go further afield.

Slave Lake once had half a dozen or so murals, but only one remains. That’s the Glen Nipshank painting on the north wall of the building that houses the Rexall pharmacy.

Councillors seemed generally in favour of the idea.

“I think this is something council should consider backing,” said councillor Kim Hughes.

For now, council directed administration to work with the RAC and bring back a report for council.

“I look forward to seeing where this goes,” said deputy mayor Shawn Gramlich, who was chairing the meeting.

It won’t be the first mural on the south-facing wall of the Slave Lake’s Royal Canadian Legion. Back in the 1990s a fanciful beach scene was painted there. It wasn’t all that popular with some people, and after a few years it was painted over. Legion president Beth McDonald says the Legion expects to have some say in the subject matter this time around.

Look for a mural to appear on this wall of the Slave Lake Legion in 2022 – assuming the Regional Arts Council can raise the money and find a willing artist.
The Legion wall with its beach scene mural, as it appeared back in the 1990s.

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