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New mural at Fowler Athletic Park soars with fun and diversity

St. Albert visual artist Kalina Hanson's mural, Soaring, relives memories of youthful memories of play

When athletes, joggers and walkers stream into Fowler Athletic Park, they will be greeted by a whimsical mural depicting residents of every age playing sports and taking part in recreational activities. 

In this magical world, a father teaches his two children to fly a kite, a man runs with a dog, a cyclist races along a walkway, a football player heads to practice and boy sits on a wheelchair while a friend sprints beside him. 

And in case there is doubt about the design’s location, well-recognized landmarks such as the Trestle Bridge, Children’s Bridge, St. Albert Place and the Grain Elevators are painted into the background. 

These picturesque scenes are part of a mural created by Kalina Hanson after the City of St. Albert announced a design commission in 2023 destined for Fowler Park’s retaining wall. Hanson was selected from 60 plus entries. 

“I was thrilled to be selected. It was so exciting. I did it in the summer last year. It was the first thing I did after graduating from Sheridan College. I’m so excited to have a piece of my work in St. Albert. It feels like an homage St. Albert,” said Hanson. 

She currently splits her time between St. Albert and Oakville, Ont. where she works as a freelance illustrator depicting children’s books, graphic novels, and murals.  

In developing a mural concept, Hanson, who attended Sir Alexander McKenzie Elementary and Lorne Akins Junior High before graduating from Bellerose Composite High School, used her personal knowledge of the city and Fowler Park to create powerful and poignant images. 

“It encompassed everything. It addressed all the different folks living in the community who use the track and it included the city’s infrastructure such as St. Albert Place. The judges kept going back and forth but came back to Kalina’s mural because it encompassed everyone and they could see themselves in it,” said Jacilyn Blackwood, city visual arts coordinator. 

The mural will cover a long concrete retaining wall. Hanson’s biggest challenge was dealing with the mural’s size and odd shape. It is 137 feet wide. At its highest point at one end, it is four feet high and tapers to two feet at the opposite end. 

“My biggest challenge was that I was used to doing small pieces for print. Formatting this was a challenge. It was a huge piece with unusual dimensions,” Hanson said. 

Working on an iPad Pro, she created shapes, amplified them and made them bold enough to see across the park’s track. 

“It’s very fantastical where it seems you’re running through outer space, and it morphs into recognizable places. I refined the sketches. And the colours are a vibrant and playful palette.” 

Once the design was completed, files were sent to Cowan Graphics in Edmonton, one of Canada’s largest digital and screen printing companies. It will print the files on vinyl layered with a super heavy backing sticker to hang on the wall. 

Blackwood noted the mural should be hung on the retaining wall by mid-May, barring unexpected weather, and will be on display five to seven years before weathering kicks in. 

“This mural was a pilot project to enhance the space and bring vibrancy to the community. If it’s successful, when it’s time to take the mural down, we’ll bring in another artist,” Blackwood said. 

The mural’s total cost is nearly $25,000. The price tag includes artist fees, fabrication, installation, cost of the selection committee, signage and future maintenance. 

Blackwood closes by saying, “It’s very illustrative and tells stories about people and situations in the community. It’s a fun and playful piece and I hope it will resonate with people, especially because there are so many playful scenes.” 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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