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City to remove downtown mural, statue pedestal

A 22-year-old mural commemorating the history of the Grey Nuns in Saint Albert will soon be taken down, as will the pedestal where the stolen St. Albert the Great statue once stood.
This 18-metre long mural on the south-facing wall of 18 Perron Street is set to be removed. CITY OF ST. ALBERT/Photo

A 22-year-old mural commemorating the history of the Grey Nuns in St. Albert will soon be taken down, as will the pedestal where the stolen Saint Albert the Great statue once stood.

The mural Tribute to the Sisters of Charity Grey Nuns St. Albert by local artist Lewis Lavoie has suffered “considerable paint loss” and “irreversible damage” from exposure to the elements since 2001, and is becoming unsightly,read a report to council in the Aug. 29 meeting agenda.

“Mural materials are not suitable for continued outdoor exposure,” the report states.

The mural is an oil painting on wood panels, and about 2.5 metres tall and 18 metres long. It's installed on the south-facing wall of 18 Perron Street.

The city's art in public spaces website says the mural was sponsored by the Grey Nuns Society to “honour and celebrate their involvement in St. Albert, a legacy that goes back a hundred years.”

“The centre of the mural shows a small turn-of-the-century one-room schoolhouse surrounded by a collage of activity,” the website says.

Lavoie, the artist, is well-known for being the inventor of the mural mosaic concept, which is when a single image is created by putting hundreds of smaller individual images together. Lavoie's 2012 mural mosaic piece called Cultivate Life is installed on the side of 22 Perron Street.

With an $8,000 budget, the city now plans to remove the Grey Nuns mural and restore the wall back to its existing condition. The citizen-based Arts Development Advisory Committee will decide whether to conserve and repair the piece, return it to the artist, or move it into storage in its current condition. 

The owner of 18 Perron Street, Nor-Alta Environmental Consulting, asked the city to remove the mural, although the report to council doesn't say why. 

The Gazette's request for comment from Nor-Alta's president Jim Haeberle went unanswered, but the report says Nor-Alta would be open to having a new piece of public art installed in place of the Grey Nuns mural.

Pedestal of stolen statue to be removed

With a budget of $1,000, the city is also looking to remove the pedestal where the bronze St. Albert the Great statue once stood before it was stolen earlier this year.

The 150-pound statue depicting Saint Albert the Great as a teenager was stolen in March, 22 years after it was installed on Perron Street. The local RCMP detachment has been investigating the theft, but Const. M.J. Burroughs confirmed on Aug. 29 Mounties had no updates to share.

“St. Albert RCMP are still encouraging anyone with information about the theft to come forward or call crime stoppers,” Burroughs said.

St. Albert the Great, or Albertus Magnus, the patron saint of scientists, was once thought to be St. Albert's namesake. However, the city's actual namesake is now thought to be St. Albert of Louvain.

Since the statue was stolen in March, the empty pedestal “has been misused as a garbage can," according to the city report. 

“Leaving the empty pedestal may be perceived as neglect and invite further vandalism,” the report says. “Removal aligns with commitment to maintain and steward the public art collection as well as the commitment to maintain safe and inviting spaces, and a vibrant downtown.”

“The unsightly pedestal and deteriorating mural may lead to a decline in the aesthetics of the area, impacting overall attractiveness of the downtown (area).”

As the Gazette previously reported, the Arts Development Advisory Committee is still deciding whether the statue should be replaced.

Council approved the $9,000 needed for both projects unanimously on Aug. 29, with the funding to be taken from the city's public art reserve, which will still have a balance of about $400,000.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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