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Welcome Mural project begins its mission in Innisfail

New art project on wall of the old creamery in Innisfail designed to be a full community project

INNISFAIL – A new outdoor mural project created by the community that is being designed to welcome all citizens of different cultures and languages has begun on an open wall of one of Innisfail’s oldest and most revered business institutions.

The new Welcome Mural on the south wall of the building at 5112 - 49 Ave. will also honour the heritage of the historic building, the site of the town’s original creamery that was built nearly 100 years ago by pioneer W.H. Jackson. His family still owns the building, which is now the home of The Coffee Cottage and Old Creamery Antiques.

The Welcome Mural will soon be the second completed public art project initiated by the Innisfail Welcoming & Inclusive Community Committee (WICC) in less than two months.

Last month, the WICC-inspired, 112-foot-long heart mural on a fence along 52nd Avenue in front of the Innisfail Schools Campus was completed with the help of hundreds of volunteers, including students and staff at the campus.

Both murals are being funded through grants received by WICC. The heart mural was funded by a $2,000 Community Grant from the Town of Innisfail, while funding for the welcoming mural is coming from a $25,000 provincial Multiculturism, Indigenous and Inclusion Grant that was awarded to WICC in 2021.

The new Welcome Mural project is being led by Calgary artist Karen Scarlett, who grew up in Innisfail and whose family has a long history in town with her great-grandfather Jim Scarlett arriving in 1881.

 Scarlett’s great-grandmother Estella Wildman Scarlett christened the town with its Innisfail name, replacing the original pioneer moniker of Poplar Grove.

Originally, the mural project on the south wall of The Coffee Cottage was to have an Indigenous theme led by accomplished Indigenous artist Ryan Jason Allen Willert but WICC has moved that idea to next year to another undecided location.

Scarlett said the primary theme for the project is inclusivity, and to welcome all local citizens from all different cultures and heritage.

The project’s secondary goal is to honour the rich heritage of the building; the site of the original creamery that was built in the late 1920s.

 It was torn down in 1959 and a new plant was constructed at the site the same year. An addition, which included the egg room and boilers, was built in 1960.

The building continued to be used as a creamery and for distribution, which included Fourman Dairy Distributors from 1980 to 1985; a company owned by former mayor Brian Spiller and former councillor Danny Rieberger.

Brian Jackson, a grandson of W.H. Jackson, took control of the building in 1989, and still owns it today with his wife Alice. The couple were at the site on July 16 to take part in the start of the Welcome Mural project.

“I love the idea of an all inclusive. We're just tickled with what's happening with the mural because it makes everybody welcome,” said Jackson, noting the old creamery was also a welcoming institution in days past with farmers coming from all around the region to drop off their cream.

“They would hang around town until their cheque was drawn up. Then they would go down and get their groceries and go home,” he said. “It was a very active and a central and welcoming place for all the farmers that were dealt with.”

Meanwhile, Scarlett is inviting the community to take part in the project by sharing a story about their heritage, and adding “welcome” to the mural in their own language and handwriting.

“It’s going to be painted blue in the background. Then we're going to do welcome in all kinds of different languages and with different people's handwriting so that the citizens of Innisfail will be able to see their handwriting up on the wall,” said Scarlett. “And we want everybody who had a different language than English spoken in their home at some point to come out and tell us little stories about that.

“And then we're going to do a little bit of a shout-out to the heritage of the building,” she added. “The graphic component that I will be putting on to go with the letters is a bunch of cream cans, but we're going to paint them in Warhol colours so that they're bright and joyful.”

Scarlett’s original idea for the handwriting was to use fonts from the computer but she seized another idea.

“We're going to get them (citizens) to give us a handwriting sample on paper,” she said. “And then we're going to use those samples and blow them up into big stencil.”

With the community backing her, she expects the Welcome Mural project to take about three weeks to complete.

“If I was just painting the mural myself, I would probably just take four or five days and just do it,” said Scarlett. “But I really want the community to come out and be involved in it.”