By Stephen Dafoe
Legal – The Centralta Tourism Society’s (CTS) idea of expanding their Francophone mural collection to the sides of homes in Legal met with the unanimous disapproval of Legal Town Council Monday night.
Currently sitting at 33 Francophone-themed murals, Ernie Chauvet, spokesperson for the CTS, told council another eight murals were confirmed to be completed in 2011 with as many as 11 being possible this year. Among the new additions are murals depicting Louis Reil, Irish immigration, 4-H, Knights of Columbus and the Metis. This project which not covers any buildings and locations in the community is intended to document the history of the communities of St. Albert, Morinville and Legal.
Long known as the Francophone Mural Capital of Canada, Mayor Albert St. Jean, expressed his concern that the town of 1,100 was rapidly running out of room for the artistic representation of French Canadian history and culture.
“My concern is where are we going to be putting them?” St. Jean asked Chauvet during the latter’s presentation to council Monday night. “We’re running out of places.”
Chauvet told council the plan was to put some on homes on Main Street and that he had plans to speak with home owners to that end. It was a concept that was not to council’s liking.
Both Councillors Trina Jones and Lisa Magera expressed concerns with putting murals on private homes due to the uncertainty when people wish to sell their homes. Councillor Phil Hughes said a mural on a private home would be the property of the new home owner when a house changed hands. As such, the new owner would be free to paint over it or alter the images on the mural. Additionally, the painting of murals on homes could open up the door for residents to start doing their own murals that might not be in keeping with the overall theme of the town’s existing murals.
But for Mayor St. Jean, there was also the question of quantity over quality, an issue he raised with Chauvet.
“When does it start looking tacky, Ernie?” St. Jean asked. “I’m really concerned that you are going after volume and not quality anymore. Once you have too much you start to lose the quality. Be careful. Some people have commented we have too many. Some people in Legal would rather have none.”
The mayor said while he is supportive of the murals, he also did not want to turn people off with an overabundance of them.
But Chauvet defended the number of murals in town, arguing the historical paintings tie into what is studied in area schools.
“Part of the approach we’ve had is hitting the social studies curriculum,” Chauvet said, adding a large amount of social studies curriculum can be followed via the murals currently in Legal.
It was a line of reasoning that failed to convince Councillor Magera. “I haven’t really heard of any schools coming,” she said. “Our own schools haven’t.”
Council agreed perhaps the best place for future murals is along the town’s trail system. But regardless of where the new murals end up, Chauvet said he does not see the creation of more murals beyond the possible 11 planned for this year.
In addition to the 11 proposed murals, a 20 foot wide by 30 foot tall sculpture (with flag poles) depicting Canadian history is scheduled to be finished this month. Council has yet to determine where the sculpture will go and are currently looking into a couple possibilities.