| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 06:00 am
The new Edmonton Remand Centre has yet to open but it’s already filled with art, most notably in the facility’s sacred space.
The multi-faith room is already adorned with a colourful new mural mosaic comprised of 216 single square panels, the hallmark of local painter Lewis Lavoie.
The Inmate Mural, as Lavoie refers to it, is the work of remand inmates, both current and former, and also some remand centre volunteers. It shows what these contributors look to for salvation, for inspiration, for spiritual guidance and even for solace.
“We wanted to show something that would incorporate all of the faiths,” Lavoie explained. “I really thought about it. What is the one symbol that everyone would agree on, from the weirdest, wackiest religions to the longest, oldest religions? It came out that it’s really a pathway going towards the light.”
From a distance, the 3.6-metre by 4.8-metre work represents the silhouette of a figure standing on a golden path leading towards a sunrise, many rays of light emanating from the glowing orb at the centre. The bottom half of the mural is noticeably darker while the horizon line marks a breaking point where the light and the lighter colours really come in.
“We tried to put a lot of things into this overall finished image,” Lavoie said.
Looking at it up close, however, there are pictures of various religious figures and symbols, including Christ, the Hajj at Mecca and Buddhist statues interspersed with some quite secular images including the Edmonton Eskimos’ logo.
Several panels feature important sayings from Allah, Arabian proverbs and biblical scriptures, even the famous serenity prayer and some personal mantras like “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension but a patient man calms a quarrel” or “This too shall pass.”
Lavoie suggests that some people might have been working out their internal conflicts.
“You hear their story. You hear how they see life and how they’re trying to rehabilitate themselves. At first I was intimidated and a little bit fearful but as you get to know these people, you realize that to walk in their shoes would not be an easy thing. I was transformed by that,” he continued, adding that it was fulfilling to be involved with this community rather than the community of artists he’s used to.
“Sometimes they get a little too artsy-fartsy. These people were more real,” he said.
The mural might not represent the most professional art but then again, it was never intended to. It is at its heart real and honest and that pleases Lavoie greatly.
Roman Catholic Chaplain Leslie Crowley is thrilled to have the mural in the interfaith sacred space.
“I think it adds the life of the inmates to this space. It adds so much life. I’m hoping they will connect to it.”
She said that it’s much like what the current remand centre has in its counterpart room except that the artworks there are entirely Christian, depicting four scenes from the Bible.