But in late September, things began to change.
Bright colours began to appear on the building, located at 366 Coteau St. West, and soon scaffolding appeared as a design began to take shape. Over time, the shapes became paintings and soon evolved into a giant mural, with artist Carly Jaye and her crew of helpers tirelessly bringing her design to reality.
Over the last couple of weeks, their efforts have turned that old grey wall into a beautiful work of art, featuring scenes from all over South Hill in a design that incorporates a shelf of books -- a nod to the building on which it was painted.
The city’s newest mural was officially unveiled on Friday afternoon, with Jaye joined by dignitaries from the South Hill Community Association and the City of Moose Jaw for the special event.
“I’m happy it’s done and even as the creator it’s crazy to step back at the end of all the processes of a mural and see your initial vision brought to life,” Jaye said shortly after a ceremony involving close to 30 people gathered at the mural.
Making the project all the more impressive is how quick it came together: Jaye first heard about the idea in mid-September and put together a design that evolved into the final painting. From there, it was getting art to wall, with work beginning at the end of September and taking a little over four weeks to complete.
“So from the day they messaged me, it was a total of six weeks,” Jaye said.
Now, if anyone could pull off such a quick turnaround, Jaye is that artist. Well known for her works all over Moose Jaw’s downtown core -- if you see a brilliantly coloured junction box or fire hydrant, that’s probably Carly -- it doesn’t take long for Jaye’s concepts to become artwork. All told, she's covered around 4,000 square feet of the city this year.
The key this time, though, was plenty of helping hands.
“I wouldn’t have been able to tackle something like this without a lot of extra hands and manpower… we had the Southwest Daycare come out and help, so there were a bunch of small hands there, then my friend Kayla (Hanson) from 32 Flavours, and a good handful of my family and friends,” Jaye said, adding that having youngsters involved was a major part of her planning.
“Any time I’m doing a public project, I try and incorporate the community because I want little kids to drive by telling their parents ‘hey, I helped paint that’ for years to come. I got to that as a child and to be able to give that back to kids makes it have that much more meaning to people driving by, they have a personal connection to it as well.”
The inspiration for the design is obvious when one looks at the final work. From the Snowbirds and 15 Wing, to Wakamow Valley and Tatawaw Park, the painting features a neat little taste of South Hill, and one that came together from several ideas.
“The inspiration was definitely the community that it’s in, South Hill, and trying to capture the details of the park and the details of South Hill that make it noteworthy… we had a list of things we wanted to capture and I kind of went through that and picked what I felt was the most noteworthy to dedicate in the middle pages,” Jaye explained. “We tried with the end book to tie in little other things too, like more parks and rivers other than just Wakamow, like Connors Park and Tatawaw Park as well.
“The South Hill Community Association really made this all happen. They’ve been discussing a mural on South Hill for five years… it was definitely something that was overdue, it’s only the third mural in the community, so we’re pretty proud of that.”
Now, it’s onto the next piece of art, whatever that may be.
“As long as the projects keep coming to me I’ll keep painting them,” Jaye said with a grin.