Moose Jaw’s downtown core is filled with beautiful works of art. The city’s murals are beloved by residents and tourists alike. This week, we take a closer look at the murals and the artists and community members who have enhanced our community.
A group of citizens wanted to replicate the murals of Chemainus, British Columbia. The Chemainus project began in 1982 and now includes over 40 murals. It revitalized the town. A group of Moose Javians wanted Karl Schutz of Chemainus to teach them how to develop a similar idea here. The first mural was Remember Old 80, which was promptly followed by Opening Day Parade. The first murals were painted in 1990.
According to Norma Westgard, chair of the Mural Project Management Committee, these days there are not a lot of buildings left that would be suitable for a mural. Thus, the committee is focused on repairing and restoring the current crop of murals so they can continue to be enjoyed by Moose Javians and visitors for years to come. Recent repairs have been completed on Fire Watch and Storming Main Street.
“Quality is better than quantity,” says Westgard. “If something is beyond repair we replace it.”
Several Moose Jaw artists have contributed murals. The artists with the most murals to their name include Grant McLaughlin and the late Gus Froese and Dale Cline. Cline was instrumental in establishing murals in the city. He also served as the president of the committee.
Froese has painted several murals, including Opening Day Parade, National Light & Power Co., March to the Pipes Forever, Ross Wells Tribute to Baseball, and others.
McLaughlin has painted Cruising Main Street, Postcards from Moose Jaw, Hopes and Dreams, Living With the Land, Winter Carnival, the Centennial Mural on the Crescent Park Amphitheatre, Tribute to Gary Hyland, among others.
Other artists have come from Avonlea, Regina, Ontario, Winnipeg, and Australia.
“Moose Jaw has such a wealth of local talent,” says Westgard. “We have a lot of local talent plus a lot of imported people have come in to do different murals.”
Sadly, Moose Jaw has lost several murals over the years due to fire, demolition, or simply deterioration. This list includes two beloved murals, Remember Old 80 (demolished in 2009) and River Street Red (destroyed by fire in 2014).
Not all is lost, however, you can find a display honouring the city’s lost murals on the side of McKarr’s Furniture at 88 Second Ave. NW. Meanwhile, the original version of Town’s Afire — originally located on First Ave. NW where the similarly-themed Fire Watch is now located— was recreated by Gus Froese on the third floor of the Hammond Building in 2015.
The newest murals have been painted onto panels so that they can be saved if a building is scheduled for demolition.
Not all Murals are Murals
If you look up the the map of all the murals, you will find that the list includes artwork other than traditional murals such as the moose sculptures on the mezzanine at Mosaic Place (which were once located in Crescent Park).
It is also worth noting that there are many murals in town that are not considered “official” murals. This includes the Al Capone mural on the side of the Cornerstone on Manitoba St. West, the new Moose Jaw Pride mural, as well as murals painted by the student group Project 104 in areas like Elgin Park. There are 47 official murals in the city.
There is also what is referred to as “ghost murals” on the sides of many of Moose Jaw’s buildings, particularly in the downtown core. These are advertisements for businesses and products that are long gone. Several years ago, the murals committee repainted a ghost mural on the side of 23 Main St. (aka The Hive). Westgard says the group would like to do more but safety regulations prevent this from being a possibility. Regardless, these ghost murals provide a fascinating glimpse into Moose Jaw’s colourful past.
Interested in Moose Jaw’s murals? You can always get involved with the Murals committee. Call Norma Westgard at 306-693-3062 or contact the city clerk’s office at 306-694-4426 for more information.