INNISFAIL – Since last July 10 Karen Scarlett and her team of up to 50 volunteers have worked weekly on one of the most ambitious public art projects in the town’s history.
By the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 27, the grand mural on three exterior walls of the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104 will finally be finished.
The creation on the 12 panels along the south, west and east exterior walls cover a total area of about 2,300 square feet; the largest project Scarlett has undertaken in her long accomplished career.
Silhouettes of 33 male and female Innisfail veterans who served in global conflicts and other military operations are depicted on the mural.
The three arms of Canada’s military – army, navy and air force - are also represented with the heroes that served in a variety of airborne, armour, amphibious and infantry units.
Through each brush stroke their stories of valour are lovingly told on each of the 12 panels.
“I think I was surprised with how powerful it comes across,” said Scarlett, project creator and lead artist. “I knew it would be pretty and I knew that there would be a bunch of reflective feelings in it when you looked at it.
“But I'm pretty happy. It feels like Remembrance Day will be every day in our town.”
And there’s a realistic chance more will be done in the future.
Scarlett estimates the nine weeks of work she and her dozens of volunteers have completed is only one quarter of the total area of the building’s exterior walls.
“There's lots of people in the legion who have told me that they need to do the full building now. I would say most of the people in the Legion are pretty excited,” said Scarlett. “And now when I walk into the legion I feel like I'm Norm from Cheers.”
The cost of the mural is being paid through a legion fundraiser that raised $37,000.
Legion general manager Dean Turnquist told the Albertan last week the near-completed mural was in his opinion a “fantastic transformation” of the once bland off-white and blank exterior wall panels into a moving and colourful artistic wonder that honours all local veterans.
“What they have done is make this a focal point for the community,” said Turnquist. “In my opinion the legion has always been a central hub in the community but now it's a visual focal point as well.
“They've gone halfway around the building and I'm hoping we can do the other half at some point in the future.”
Turnquist added ideas are already coming to him about how the rest of the exterior wall space could be filled.
He said one member told him that one panel could represent military motorcycles, while another idea could depict the heroism of local veterans from the First World War's Battle of Vimy Ridge.
“There's just so many great Canadian stories from the wars and the fact is that we have the canvas to be able to tell those stories,” he said.
What is also rewarding for Scarlett and her team is the overwhelming and countless nods of approval from citizens outside the legion.
“We literally have probably every third car open their window and scream how excited and how happy they are that the mural looks as fabulous as it does,” said Scarlett.
“I think when you create beauty in a community, there is an immense amount of pride that people feel, which is really important for all kinds of things; drawing attention to the town, bringing in tourism and making people happy.”