Mural mosaic idea was born in Slave Lake

Now they are all over the world

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Not every town can boast a mural mosaic by Lewis Lavoie, let alone a pair of them. Slave Lake is one of the favoured few. Both murals are on display at the Multi Rec Centre.

But the Slave Lake connection to mural mosaic history goes even deeper than that. Lavoie’s partner in art and business Phil Alain says the idea for the mosaic murals grew out of the Night of Artists events he started when he lived in Slave Lake in the late 1990s.

The murals, besides being simply nice to look at, are unusual in that they are made up of many dozens of small panels – all painted by different people. Lavoie comes up with the design – then divvies the job of painting it into many squares. Some will have an element or two pre-affixed. Many will come with guidelines as to colour or theme. Otherwise, it’s a free-for-all. So each square is a painting in its own right. Only when they are assembled does anybody but Mr. Lavoie (and maybe a handful of his collaborators) know what the final picture is going to be. That’s when you see the Lavoie magic – all those small components blending into a unified whole.

The first mural mosaic project Lavoie Alain undertook in Slave Lake was for the new town hall, in 2010 or thereabouts. It involved schoolkids and seniors in town (painting the component pieces) and when they were all put together it depicted a senior citizen and a child. It hung in the lobby of the town office for a year or so, but unfortunately was lost along with much else in the fire of 2011.

The two mural mosaics that do survive in Slave Lake are the Canada 150 fishing one, that hangs in the Tervita Arena, and the one showing four skaters, on display in the lobby.

According to a write-up on the town website, over 900 Slave Lakers participated in the creation of the fishing mural, which was one of many Lavoie and Alain did in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2015. It was intended by the artists to be part of a much larger mural, made up of 150 smaller ones. If ever connected, the big mural would be over 365 metres wide.

As for the skating mural… it was a recovery project, following the 2011 wildfires, and is called ‘Pubble People.’

There also is a reproduction of a Lavoie mural mosaic at Vanderwell Heritage Place in Slave Lake. It’s a picture of Noah’s Ark under a rainbow, made up of a lot of smaller pictures of animals. What we found out is that the original was put together in Edmonton, with contributions from various artists, including several from Slave Lake. It was a fundraiser for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Alain told The Leader in a phone interview last week. Participants received a copy of the finished product, which probably explains why there are several on display in Slave Lake.

The mural mosaic thing has grown quite large in recent years. Judging by the information on the website, it keeps Lavoie and Alain and a staff of eight as busy as they want to be. Alain told The Leader it has gone international in the past few years. One of the murals adorns a hotel in Russia; another is in the U.K. and “they are all over the United States.”

Slave Lake’s contribution to the Canada 150 Mural Mosaic project hangs in the Tervita Arena. Each squre was painted by a different person, and none of them knew what the final picture would be.
Earth’s Treasure Chest, made up of 160 individual painted squares. Several copies of it are on display around Slave Lake.

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