History File: At one time, Slave Lake had five murals; now it has one

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

At a recent, M.D. of Lesser Slave River council meeting, the idea of making a mural to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Slave Lake wildfire was brought up. At the moment, Slave Lake has one mural, but this wasn’t always the case.

The remaining mural is on the Rexall building next to The Leader. It is a mural of the night sky with an Indigenous drummers (or possibly spirits) and the northern lights.

This was the third of four murals painted in the 1990s and early 2000s in Slave Lake. It was painted by Glen Nipshank.
“We wanted more of an Indigenous theme,” says Margaret Moore, who was involved in the planning committee. “That’s the only one that’s still there.”

Nipshank, who grew up in Slave Lake, is a potter and painter. He studied at the Institute of American Indian Art in Sante Fe, New Mexico. He is a member of Bigstone Cree Nation.

The last time Moore was in Slave Lake, she thought that the Nipshank mural could use touching up. It is flaking a bit on the bottom.

The first mural was painted in 1992, when Slave Lake hosted the Northwest Winter Games. It was on the Walter Twinn Theatre and depicted a skier bursting out of the side of the building. Marty Yatkzo, who lived in Slave Lake at the time, was the artist.

“It was just excellent,” says Moore.

The next one was on the Slave Lake Legion.

“That was quite controversial,” says Moore. A professional artist from Edmonton painted a whimsical beach scene which included a moose with a fair amount of pink on it. Even though there was someone on the committee from the Legion, the other Legion members really didn’t like it.

In 1996, an artist held a summer camp in Slave Lake. She and the students painted a mural on two sides of the old library, which is now Koinonia Christian School.

“It was just a fun one,” says Moore. The theme was story book characters.

The former IGA building had two murals – first a boreal forest scene (see photo) and then a collage of images painted by Roland Michener art students. It survived until the building was demolished to make way for the Servus Credit Union.

The mural which was on the old Slave Lake Library. The building is now Slave Lake Koinonia Christian School.
Martin Yatzko’s mural on the Walter Twinn Theatre in Slave Lake. The building now houses Grateful Heart, Flowers Etc. and some businesses up stairs.
The Glen Nipshank mural in Slave Lake in 2021.
Boreal Forest, by Stan Phelps and Keith Holmes, on the old IGA building, didn’t hold up very well and was replaced after a few years.
The ‘controversial’ beach scene, which used to be on the Slave Lake Legion.

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