Students help create Canada 150 Mosaic mural for St. Stephen-only community in NB participating in nation-wide project

Kathy Bockus/Courier Students at Milltown Elementary School display their completed tiles which will be combined with others students at both Milltown Elementary and St. Stephen Elementary have painted to create the finished Canada 150 Mosaic for St. Stephen.

St. Stephen – There’s been an artistic team hard at work in St. Stephen during the past two days.
They’re students from Milltown Elementary School and St. Stephen Elementary School and they are creating a legacy for their town.

The students have all painted small ceramic tiles which will be assembled to create a mosaic for inclusion in the nation-wide Canada 150 Mosaic project.
St. Stephen’s completed mosaic, which will measure 2.4 metres by 3.6 metres, will be officially unveiled in about a month, in its new home on a lobby wall of the Garcelon Civic Center.

St. Stephen is the 47th stop on the national mosaic journey, and the only community in New Brunswick participating in the project. The mosaic will depict train cars, with each one highlighting a community’s special interests or features. The cars will be joined – virtually- on line.

Phil Alain and Paul Lavoie, are co-producers of Canada 150 Mosaic. They travelled from their home base in Edmonton to St. Stephen to supervise the creation of the tiles, and the assembly of the local mural.

They, and a third partner, Lewis Lavoie, operate a company – muralmosaic.com. They began doing murals together in 2003, and have designed and created murals for the Vancouver Olympics, the London Olympics, and various events in the United States.
Paul Lavoie said the idea for the Canada 150 Mosaic project – “has been a work in progress.”
“It sort of evolved over the years. We always thought ‘what are we going to do for Canada’ and then Canada 150 came along.”

He said they have incorporated the names of each community in the design of their long line of train cars, and while the complete mural will be available for viewing on line on their website, “the murals will live within the communities themselves.”

Alain said the three approached communities across Canada with the idea. The previous town council voted to participate in the project at a cost of $12,000. At a council meeting earlier this month, CAO Derek O’Brien told Mayor Allan MacEachern and councillors the town has received a $6,000 federal grant, to be applied toward the cost of the project.

“Our goal is to go from towns and cities, all the way from Vancouver Island all the way to Prince Edward Island, creating murals in each community of a train car representing that particular community,” said Alain.
When the project is completed, with 400-600 people in each community painting tiles, Alain said “we make this gigantic train depicting Canada in over 80,000 paintings.”
Alain, who is in charge of coordinating the mural creation across the country, was pleased at the enthusiasm of the participating local students.

“It’s been a great day,” he said Wednesday. “They are all so excited to get involved; they’re all listening very carefully.
“They want to make sure they do their part and really, not only are they representing this community, but they’re pretty much representing New Brunswick.”
Alain said there are only two murals being created in New Brunswick, one in St. Stephen, and the other in Fredericton, to which several regions will contribute. He said the majority of participants from New Brunswick will be in St. Stephen.
“St. Stephen is really an anchor for this province.”
Wednesday, Alain instructed the MES students, whom he called his “cool team”, since they were working with cool colours on the colour palette – various shades of blue, green and purple.
He encouraged the students to paint whatever they liked, but urged them to consider creating something about St. Stephen they liked to do, whether it was to go fishing, swimming, playing hockey, smelling flowers, or building snow forts.

“Think of what St. Stephen is to you,” he urged. When one student suggested “chocolate”, but said brown wasn’t in their colour palette, Alain laughed and asked “today, what colour is chocolate? Blue!”
“And today, your dog is blue or green or purple. Pretend there’s this alien who decides to drop this blue bomb on St. Stephen, and suddenly your whole town is blue. Imagine you are in this blue world.

“Paint whatever you like,” Alain said, but asked they make sure to cover their entire tile with the paint.
“You guys are the construction team, you guys are building it.”
Alain said one of the most important things he wanted them to do that day was to “make sure you have fun; it’s very important you have fun today.”
After they completed painting their tile, the students each received a souvenir – a sheet of numbered stickers, and matching spots, where they could be placed to create their own mosaic.

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Kathy Bockus
Journalist Kathy Bockus is based in St. Stephen and has worked for The Saint Croix Courier as a general news reporter and feature writer for the past 15 years. She began her lengthy newspaper career in 1974 with a daily in Saint John. Bockus says she always jokes being a reporter is a licence to be nosey, but firmly believes that everyone has a story to tell. She can be contacted at 321-0759.