Town jumps on mural train


Grant backs 80,000-piece painting

Morinville residents will get to celebrate Canada’s 150th this month by painting part of a transcontinental train.

Town council learned Jan. 24 that Morinville had received a $10,000 grant from the Canada 150 Fund to take part in the Canada 150 Mosaic project run by St. Albert artist Lewis Lavoie.

Lavoie and his team worked with town council and the Morinville Historical & Cultural Society to design a roughly 350-tile mural that town residents will paint, council heard.

Lavoie will work with students at Morinville Public, Notre Dame, G.H. Primeau and Morinville Community High schools this Feb. 6 and 7 to paint the majority of the tiles, said town community and protective services director David Schaefer. About 50 town residents will get to paint a tile as well.

“It’s kind of exciting because it is a legacy opportunity,” he said.

Town councillors will also each chip in a tile to the finished work, said Mayor Lisa Holmes.

“I think it’s a really great opportunity for the community to celebrate culture.”

One big mural

The Mural Mosaic team (which consists of Lavoie, Paul Lavoie and Phil Alain, all of St. Albert) has been doing tile mosaic murals all over the continent for about 13 years, Alain said. About five years ago, they got the idea to do a mural that would cover all of Canada. They soon determined that the best way to do that was to create many interconnected murals instead of a giant one.

The team has spent the last 16 months working with communities across Canada to complete the murals, Alain said.

In each, they work with residents to come up with an image that best represents the community. Once they do, they break that image into pixel-like squares and have volunteers paint what they like on four-by-four inch tiles using the colours found in those squares. The tiles are then assembled to create a mosaic mural of the image.

The Morinville mural depicts St. Jean Baptiste Church and its associated park on the back of a giant train car.

The historical society and town council picked this image to reflect the role the Catholic church and Father Jean-Baptiste Morin play in founding Morinville and settling the west, said Murray Knight of the Morinville Historical & Cultural Society. The church is over 100 years old, and has long served as a meeting place for community residents.

“Even today, it stands out. You drive down the highway, it’s still a beacon of light for beautiful downtown Morinville.”

The mural also depicts a blue flag with a fleur-de-lis on it in St. Jean Baptiste Park to represent the town’s francophone heritage, Knight said.

As for the train car, Alain said that each image in the mural project is riding a car so that they can symbolically connect to form a giant, cross-continental train – a nod to the railway’s significance in bringing the nation together.

While each mural will remain in its host community once finished, Alain said the murals would create a piece four football fields long consisting of 80,000 individual paintings if they were ever brought together.

The train will have caboose and engine mosaics that will represent all of Canada, Alain said. While he was keeping the design of the caboose a secret, he did say that the engine would be a steam-powered model composed of tiles painted by celebrities such as singer Jann Arden and comedian Rick Mercer.

Alain said the team had completed about 35 mosaics in the project so far and hoped to have 80 done by this fall. The team was excited by the pride people took in contributing to it.

“They’re not just painting a tile. They’re leaving a legacy.”

Schaefer said the Morinville mural would be unveiled on Canada Day.

Residents who want to paint a tile should sign up at


About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.