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Mural Mosaic restores St. Albert's largest mural

The Cultivate Live mural received a complete touchup from fading and shifting

Anyone and everyone who has ever parked their car in St. Albert Place parking lot or strolled through the downtown site will have noticed Cultivate Life, a massive mural featured on the Gaffney & McGreer Building at 20 Perron St. 

The eye-catching 24-foot by 30-foot mural mosaic of an eight-year-old girl, wearing denim overalls and holding a pot of flowers, was recently restored to its original pristine beauty. Its unveiling was held Thursday, Aug. 3 at St. Albert Place with a small crowd that included university student Ayla Chin, the St. Albert resident who is the mural's focal point. 

“She spoke about the mural’s beauty and as a child not understanding the mural’s importance and how it’s touched the community. She even wore denim overalls to celebrate the occasion,” said Dani Rice, City of St. Albert’s visual arts coordinator. 

Mural Mosaic, a company created by Phil Alain, Lewis Lavoie and his brother Paul, originally installed the panel mural in 2012 to commemorate St. Albert’s life and culture. However, after 11 years of weathering from sun, rain, wind, snow and hail, the faded mural required a serious facelift. 

“It lost a lot of reds and yellows and was fading. There was a little bit of shifting and some of the scenes were not coming up. It was nothing drastic, but it was at the point of fading, and you couldn’t see some of the scenes,” Rice said.  

She explained the original community project attracted 146 local visual artists who painted 216 tiles. Mural Mosaic then arranged the tiles in 12 rows and 18 columns to showcase a young Ayla Chin enjoying the fruits of summer.  

Each painted tile was printed on a Dibond substrate often used for outdoor projects. It has a special ability to withstand climate weathering and is durable and lightweight. The original warranty lasted five years. 

Traditionally, mural restoration is tedious, detail-oriented and time-consuming especially if the restorer works on scaffolding. However, due to modern-day technology, the process was sped up. 

As part of the refurbishing process, Lewis Lavoie went back to the original tile paintings in storage and photographed them. The photos were taken in sections and the next step was working with a printer to imprint sections. 

“We replaced the panels, and you can see how the new panels are so much more vibrant.” 

Rice adds, “The mural is important to the community. It speaks to St. Albert’s culture and creativity. The arts are very important to St. Albert and bringing this mural back to life is an example of that.” 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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