Anyone driving or walking northbound on Railway Avenue in Ashcroft cannot help but notice a new mural on the side of the Rolgear/Royal LePage/Sam’s Diner building, facing the parking lot. It is the last in a series of events and projects commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Ashcroft Art Club; and club vice-president Sharon Rennie says that members were glad to complete and unveil it in 2017. “I’m just glad we got it up in the club’s 50th year.”
The mural was originally intended to be unveiled for Canada Day; but the previous project—a series of painted banners for Railway Avenue—was delayed. The banners were up in time for Canada Day; but with the summer’s wildfires, the mural project was pushed back.
Rennie says that last year club members began brainstorming special events and programs for 2017. The first was a special tea for current and former club members, held before the annual art show in April; the second was the banners. The third—Rennie’s idea—was a mural commemorating the club and the flourishing art community in the area.
The mural celebrates not only painting, but photography, depicting a person with a camera. Several individual paintings are inset within the mural, and Rennie says it “just sort of happened” that each of the paintings represented a different season: spring (prickly pear cactus); summer (farm workers in a field); fall (St. Alban’s Church with an autumn tree); and winter (a snowy forest). There is also a painting of the building with the Nabob sign that used to stand at the corner of what is now Railway and Highway 97C.
The painting of the mural started in October, with Rennie, Marianne Munro, Lauraleigh Hedges, Jo Petty, Heidi Roy, and Judy Roy working on it at the Ashcroft HUB. It was painted on an aluminum substrate that is substantially lighter than plywood, and finished with five coats of varnish to help it withstand the elements. Rennie says that more than 100 hours went into the creation of the mural.
The club checked with a couple of businesses to see about displaying the mural, but received no response. Then Angela Bandelli—one of the owners of the Rolgear building, as well as a member of the art club—offered space for it on the side of the building. “It’s a good spot,” says Rennie. “You can see it from way down Railway.”
The 12 banners now on display along the west side of Railway were painted by several members of the art club, with assistance from students at Desert Sands Community School, and AES Electric donated their time and a bucket truck to put them up. They represent all the different art forms undertaken by artisans in the region, including painting, sculpture, pottery, photography, and mosaics. Rennie says they should last for two to three years.
She acknowledges that the banners and mural could not have been completed without generous community support. The United Way provided funding for the banners, while Second Time Around, the Ashcroft and District Lions Club, and IG Machine and Fibres provided funding for the mural.
“I hope the public artwork out there brightens the spot for people, after the year we’ve had,” says Rennie. “I hope people enjoy it. And we had fun working together.”