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Spur Line Art Trail auction honours history, helps communities

“We have plaques from professional artists, old railway and mine workers, to children. There are people who have done trains. They have done wildlife. There are depictions of the Engine Bridge. There is quite a bit of First Nations, mountains, abstract. It was wonderful. The creativity is astonishing.”

CANMORE – The Canmore Spur Line was an important part of the heritage of the community.

From the late-19th century to 1979, the rail line ran from the coal mines to the main line in town, helping to build the early economy of Canmore. Eventually, the mines closed, and the spur line became a popular trail within the community.

Now, that heritage is being honoured through a special auction using the very trees that once lined the trail.

“The Spur Line Art Trail was created for the Town of Canmore’s Building Neighbourhoods Builds Community program,” said Canmore-based artist Lesley Russell, who curated the trail. “I was the artist who worked on the trail, and it was to elevate Canmore’s rich heritage, landscape and wildlife. It is such an iconic trail.”

Russell collected trees that had been felled on the trail and had a company slice them into plaques. She then distributed 170 of the plaques into the community in the hopes that art of all varieties could be created. What she received back was beyond what she could have expected. At first, she expected only a few to be returned. In reality, she received over 140.

“At the start, I was painting plaques because I was afraid no one was going to do anything and I was going to have to fill some gaps and that really didn’t have to happen and that was lovely,” Russell said.

The variety of artists and their creations was also something that surprised Russell.

“We have plaques from professional artists, old railway and mine workers, to children,” Russell said. “There are people who have done trains. They have done wildlife. There are depictions of the Engine Bridge. There is quite a bit of First Nations, mountains, abstract. It was wonderful. The creativity is astonishing.”

Now with the artwork done, Russell is ready to auction off the plaques at a special event, the first charity is Spirit North in Mînî Thnî (Morley).

“I chose the two charities because I had our neighbours in Morley create plaques and I wanted to make sure we gave back to First Nations in some way,” Russell said. “Spirit North is a great charity that does land-based activities that improve the health and well-being of Indigenous youths.”

The second charity to benefit is the Discover Art Fund program run by artsPlace.

“I am giving to the artsPlace Discover Art Fund which helps low-income families get access to the arts,” Russell said. “I just felt they were ideal for what we had created as a community.”

The barbecue will take place on Sept. 17 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 802 12A Street in Canmore. It will include a special barbecue and live music. Everyone is welcome at the event. The auction itself is online.

“The plan is for people to bid in the auction and take the plaque home and put on their shelf in their house, on their fence, hanging on the trees, in their gardens,” Russell said. “The plan is for [the plaques] to be spread among the community again. The lucky bidders get to collect their art plaques that night.”

You can bid on items by visiting https://m.charityauctionstoday.com/m/auctions/spur-line-art-trail-charity-auction-33848/items.


The Aug. 25 edition of the Outlook incorrectly said the Spur Line Art Trail auction would take place Sept. 17. The barbecue will be that day from 4 to 8 p.m. with live music. The auction is online and can be found at: https://m.charityauctionstoday.com/m/auctions/33848. The Outlook apologizes for the error.