Legal puts the kibosh on murals on houses

Ernie Chauvet speaks about Legal's 33rd Francophone mural in this file photo. as many as 11 more murals may find their way into Legal in 2011.
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.

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  1. I think council is right on with this one.

    It can get to be too much and is quickly approaching that. I feel even 11 new ones this year is too much. The proposed skate park will also be tied to murals. I wonder if this is above and beyond the planned 11?

    Perhaps some of the money spent to erect new art could be spent on promotion for what’s currently on view. I believe that Legal is now on the world stage with occassional tours from Europe, and most definetly from Quebec and other French speaking Canadian locations.

    Perhaps we can capitalize on that by offering more in additon to the murals to promote the Franco-Canadian culture. The bread oven was always popular with tourists and locals alike.

    Per capita Legal has a high number of artists. I’ve often thougth of an “art walk” to private studios would be a nice addition to our tourism offering. The business spin-offs are many. It would be wise to capitalize on our close proximity to larger centres.

    Our town needs some revitalization. If CTS has dollars available to promote tourism there are other ways to do it.

    Legal Citizen

  2. Re: “Legal puts the kibosh on murals on houses”.

    I have been painting murals both inside and out, in all kinds of locations for the last 30 years. I have had the opportunity to visit the Legal Murals and find them of high quality comparable to any mural in North America. I do not understand the implied relation between the number of murals in Legal and the murals’ quality. While the location of a mural may be a concern, how can any of them so far be considered tacky?

    Cities and towns often sponsor murals and murals encourage cleanliness, local pride, and local tourism. Am I to understand from this article that the comments received and affirmed by the Mayor of Legal reflect a disfavour common to its citizens? Is it in any way true that Legal’s citizens would rather not have any more murals except on walking trails, where less people will see them?

    Artists tend to like the statement that “a picture is worth 1000 words”. The article also points out that the view of the Council is that, after due consideration, those 1000 words should be local, and not for public awareness. While I can respect that, I cannot understand why.

    Legal is a small community with 35 murals to be proud of. As an artist and someone who has seen murals in many communities, I am surprised that local citizens are not proud of what they have accomplished. It seems to me that they are the envy of many other communities.

    John Ellenberger
    Pembrook, Ontario

  3. Legal Murals,

    Just a few comments regarding the Legal Mural project as reported on the Morinville News.

    The Centralta Tourism can only do projects if they get governemnt grans and allmost all grants require 50% contribution from the organization. In Legal all the family projects were paid in full by the families without exception. The only mural that was paid 100% from grants is The Romeo Dallaire-Canadian Peace Keeping Forces Mural. That mural was erected by matching the amount sponsored by the families.

    Other suggestions are more than welcome as long as the suggestions also present the dynamics to raise the matching 50%.

    We are aware that we now need to increase the emphasis on publicity for the visual arts paintings in Morinville and Legal. Our challenge remains the same, how do we get the matching amount to even ask for a grant to promote Legal and Morinville?

    The desire to have murals down Main Street Legal was an effort to beautify main street. Any claims that more murals become tacky we would not agree with. Our last murals on the politicians and Romeo Dallaire and Garneau are far from being tacky. Similarily well placed murals down main street could actually make Legal even more beautiful.

    We don’t know if those who objected to the Town having murals have even taken the time to tour the murals so we can’t comment. We do invite those who have new ideas to bring them forth to the Town and take personal initiative to move their ideas from words to reality. Just gather 5 to 10 people around your ideas and make it happen.

    Ernest Chauvet, coordinator Centralta Tourism Society

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