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Rec centre mural highlights sense of belonging

“The mural had to be something that expressed that when you’re in the rec centre, you belong here. Whether you’re a grandparent, a single mom, a hockey player, a gymnast, they all belong to the building. It’s a safe place where everyone belongs.”

The Canmore Recreation Centre has a more vibrant look to it.

A new mural in the main lobby is bringing a bit of extra colour for the hundreds of people who enter the rec centre throughout the course of each day.

The aim of the mural is to help bring a greater connection to residents, with the theme of belonging and values such as inclusion, motivation and inspiration.

“The mural had to be something that expressed that when you’re in the rec centre, you belong here,” said Pascale Ouellet, the artist who organized the mural. “Whether you’re a grandparent, a single mom, a hockey player, a gymnast, they all belong to the building. It’s a safe place where everyone belongs.”

The artwork includes several painted trees represented with the roots sprightly painted and hundreds of handprints in the foreground of the mural.

Titled I Belong, the mural is part of the Building Neighbourhoods Builds Community program run through the Town of Canmore.

The project was organized by Ouellet and involved a core group of 11 people and 458 participants were part of putting it together.

The planning began in September, with the work taking place from mid October to Nov. 1.

Ouellet said she originally envisioned using artifacts important to the rec centre, but after meeting with Town staff she said there were concerns of items possibly being broken. She turned to the idea of a mural, and after working with various people, put together a tentative idea in Photoshop that was then fine-tuned.

Ouellet said the walls of the rec centre “were screaming for art,” and judging by the response, many felt the same.

She reached out to about 15 different community groups such as the Banff Canmore Speed Skating Club, Canmore Eagles Jr. A team, various hockey leagues and teams, Town staff and Canmore residents.

The work was completed by several community groups who regularly use the rec centre in an effort to better connect their members with the building, work together on a creative project and learn more about public art and its value.

Ouellet said participants were of all ages from seniors to as young as two-and-a-half-year-old Waverly Wickins.

The mural is designed to create a sense of belonging, where people feel safe and welcome, Ouellet said.

“It’s so rewarding. It’s way beyond anything I was expecting. I would come home exhausted, but also very elated by all the people who were taking part. …The look on their faces and the reward of when they put their hand on the wall to see the mark they made was priceless,” she said.

“It was amazing. I felt the warmth and the human connection was happening. It was tough, but very rewarding.”

The plan is for the mural to continue calling the rec centre home for the foreseeable future or “until they feel the need to put a white coat of paint over it,” Ouellet said jokingly.

She also complimented the Town of Canmore for running the second iteration of the Building Neighbourhoods Builds Community program. The projects have garnered significant interest from residents and visitors.

The goal of the program is to bring community members together, while celebrating the different cultures and history of Canmore. It also serves as an avenue for local artists to highlight aspects of the Town through public art.

 “Canmore has made me the artist that I am and it’s through opportunities like this that we can grow,” Ouellet said.

“We’re very lucky and grateful we have an arts department at the Town of Canmore. The opportunities they have created over the years have helped me grow as an artist and I’m sure everybody who has been part of these projects feels the same thing. It’s a very important department. Art is important for the community. It’s not just for artists or the privileged, it’s for everybody to experience art in a positive way.”