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Putting together the pieces
Last spring, as Port Coquitlam officials were searching for artistic ideas to mark the city’s centennial year in 2013, Lindsay Watson suggested an anniversary project to the Art Focus Artists’ Association, of which she’s a member.
Watson had seen mural mosaics created by Canadian artist Lewis Lavoie and she took his Le Cadeau de Cheval to show her group. His masterpiece is of a galloping horse that is split into small panels, each painted by an individual artist. Lavoie had sent his participating artists colour guidelines on a grid and they worked in their style that would fit into the collective piece.
With president Val Bordian championing the project to the city, Art Focus launched its own mural mosaics, choosing the city’s flower, the azalea, as the background. Two of its members had previously captured azaleas so Art Focus adopted their images: one in a fuchsia pink, the other in a lighter salmon-orange pink.
Through monthly workshops at the Leigh Square Community Arts Village, the 32 artists gathered to discuss their selected panels. Watson had drawn and assigned 40 panels in total and asked artists to look for inspiration within the petal shapes to incorporate city people and places.
Using acrylic paints, the artists popped in images of national hero Terry Fox (with permission from the Fox family); the courthouse clock tower; the Leigh Square bandshell; the Coast Meridian Overpass; fly fishers; First Nations traditions; and a map of PoCo from space, to name a few.
Finally, at their Jan. 5 workshop when all 40 panels were inserted, the artists stood back in awe to study the overall scenes.
“There was total silence,” Watson remembered. “I thought, ‘Oh, no, they don’t like it.’ But after a few seconds, there was applause. It was really heart-warming because it was a big effort on their part.”
Watson said the project also produced strong bonds between the Art Focus members as a few of them who had neighbouring panels had to blend their artwork for a better mosaic flow. As well, others had to take “a leap of faith” by painting in a medium they were not used to, she said.
Bordian said she congratulates Watson and the artists “for the spectacular job so well done for this auspicious PoCo 2013 centenary celebration,” she said.
• The opening reception for PoCo: Personal and Inspirational will be on Saturday, Feb. 23 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Gathering Place at Leigh Square. The exhibit runs tomorrow to March 25.