AR:TROUTE BLUE ARTIST Michelle Loughery BC AR:T ROUTE BLUE Destination Mural Town Take it to the wall

Third Wave

As we pivot through the third wave of this pandemic party, it is truly interesting to watch the world change.

Change is the word that will always remind me of Covid19. How fast can we adapt is true evolution. Watching the creative businesses and people pivot to make digital and physical u-turns, shows the resilience and creative brain power we all have at our fingertips. Projects that I spent decades working on were stalled, changed, yet somehow made more relevant in a time that seems what the projects were destined for.

No mistakes in life and there really is a master plan. Decades of selling art as destination placemaking is now a trend, the renewal is now focusing on creating art and content. And the arts are taking a lead in the future. But wait …..seriously…..think ……tool making… infrastructure is what mankind has done since we figured out our thumbs could hold a tool, and create something useful. In times of great bounty we had time to decorate those tools. This time round it seems more like reversed engineering. We had bountiful time to decorate the things we need to create to rebuild our community and digital infrastructure. What did we do with that time? What cave drawings did we do that will leave the story of this time?

Looking back with a blue lens, I am so grateful to the creative tribe I came from. Business leaders, union creators, farmers, musicians and artists. A real mix of many skills. I remember a time that I was laughed at by a mean girl in school, because my dad used to love to go the dump looking for things to remake into treasures. In front of my whole class she snarled and said, “we all call your dad a dump digger!” I still feel the hot shame I felt and the nose bleed that overtook me as I started to cry.”

Looking back with pride. I am a dump diggers daughter. How did I feel even one moment of shame?

I know how to take things that others throw away and make something beautiful. Hundreds of gallons of dump paint went into the hundreds of murals I painted. My dad was an artist, a musician and a businessman. My mother was a baker, an artist, and a business women. They built their communities from the hands up.

With environmental knowledge that wasn’t a fad, it was how things were done. I am a product of these people and the skills they had from the immigrant parents that toiled to build this country. Those skills are going to be needed as we all dig out of this mess we are in. I know this……we have to look back to find a way forward……together

ARTIST Michelle Loughery Michelle Loughery Art STUDIO ART

Loughery’s Bold Work

Experiencing the projects behind Michelle Loughery’s Bold Murals & Artwork

BC Based artist Michelle Loughery’s work stretches from massive mural portraiture to multi layered evocative, abstract encaustic studio work. More than three decades ago, as Loughery’s artwork began to include youth trades programing and community skills training, to grow community projects in scale that entire communities were rebranded, and recreated in her collaborative creative placemaking work. 

Born and raised in a rural coal town, the artist began to recognize a certain satisfaction she felt when working at a larger scale, and when youth and seniors from the community were engaged in the experience. From heritage themes, international music star themes, youth social change murals and crime prevention mental health projects, the art form would become integral to Loughery’s artistic exploration.

Inspired by those that challenged the systems, two key attributes behind the design of the Internment Canada Sunflower Mural, Loughery created a colorful massive piece, named “The Sunflower Project’ as tribute to the men and women interned in Canada during world war one. Loughery’s great grandfather and grandmother were effected by this Canadian injustice. Loughery is not unfamiliar with either injustices and challenging social systems ; she’s embraced both through the development of her indigenous youth Wayfinder ArtWORKS Projects and during her career she’s challenged the government and community systems to support youth inclusion and skills building  in the process behind each work and global project she has created.

To embrace the parallels between Loughery’s artwork  and the communities she champions, requires understanding the process and key themes that inspire her practice.

“My mural work and my studio work are quite different,” she says. “The murals are a work of love and inclusion. It is a infrastructure work of  art that brings community together through community development and social change. The mural becomes a sense of place, of return and of skills and story exchange.  The work also has much to do with the viewer.”

Loughery muses “The work must make bold statements. Both visually or historically. Not always a  positive statement, but one that invites people into the view. It is astounding to me that I painted so much of the past, talking to the people who experienced it, while painting in the present, teaching youth that would be leaders of tomorrow. My work is true time travel.  The art itself a time machine.” If it does not have a bold impact right from the start, it can be easily dismissed. The art must celebrate diversity and unsung heroes. 

Loughery’s studio artistic work began in the studio long before she painted outside. But her mural work and her studio work are both approached the same. Her murals are approached as a massive fine art pieces, never mapped or gridded. Loughery’s encaustic work is multi-layered and her process of taking away layers to reveal the work beneath the surface, tells of the work she is prepared to do in the development of the medium she creates from the bees wax and pigment waxes she hand makes. Loughery has developed a visual language through her combined multi-media work and has moved beyond being a technical painter into a place of intuition and expression.  

Her encaustic paintings  are an expression of bold mark making, energy and the melting of layers to reveal thoughts of the work hidden in the thoughts of the experiences of the walls and characters she met along the way.  Loughery speaks of her memories in her portrait work and many familiar faces appear in the large striking pieces.

 The more I think about the people I paint,  the more I think about taking them away from the structured portrait and exploring the essence of their characters in an abstract layered visual language that reveals as much as it conceals.” 

Loughery has found that her work turns out the best when the eyes capture the viewer.

“I love how one stroke of light can change another color when attempting to light the emotion in the subjects eyes. It goes back to perception and the tricks our mind plays on us and what we believe is real. I am always trying to paint the thought behind the eyes and to reach to the soul of each subject. I try to capture the emotion and the feeling of the light as it changes each layer of colour. This work puts more feeling with the color to put more meaning into the portrait making.”

The work of Loughery is indeed never ordinary, but more extraordinary.


I will not draw in Math Class with Roy Henry Vickers

Grab a coffee, climb the digital scaffolding and spend time with Master Artists Roy and Michelle ART ROUTE RADIO

Destination Digital studios in the time of Covid -Master Artist Series with Host Michelle Loughery

Taking art to the wall and may other conversations.

Art In the time of Covid with Master Artist Michelle Loughery and special guest artist Henry Roy Vickers. 

Michelle and Master Artist Roy Henry Vickers have a digital coffee conversation about the importance of art in the healing of the world after Covid.  Listening to our ancestors will help create a path of healing and connection.

“A pipe carrier walks in the ways of the four directions, which are common to all nations in the world: teacher, healer, visionary and leader,” says Roy. “We always have the pipe in our minds so that when we get into situations where we feel like we’re off kilter or off centre or, we can always go back to this place of peace and centre ourselves, ask the creator to help us be who we are.” RHV


“I will draw in any class…” RHV


If the walls could talk and sing….MICHELLE LOUGHERY LEGACY PROJECTS

During the years of 1999 and 2004, although I had painted murals in my home town and other area, at this time I worked predominantly with the Downtown Vernon Association creating the series of Heritage Murals. The key plan was the concept of making all the murals cohesive with one artist and to bring the youth training concept that I used in my home town to build a social and safety component to the downtown.

During that time I was awarded a contract to paint murals along the ROUTE 66 Highways and while painting in Cuba, Missouri the North American AR:T ROUTE idea was born. The heart of this concept was imagined while painting the murals with the youth downtown. Seeing the eager faces engage and witnessing the community coming to the walls in support and inclusion struck a past a present cord. But I could never imagine then that a new a new movement being born. How to take a thematic revitalization and paint the canvas of huge walls to a social and tourism legacy.

During this time it was the leadership of many community minded women that pushed the project to the global youth community training model that mural projects everywhere are today. I see the faces of the women who pushed for funding, permits, healing and to bring a group of unique misfit creatives into an orchestra of an emerging canvas that still is relevant today, decades later. Follow me as I gift my mother with this story. This book of the wall. Walls today are just the modern cave walls that unite all of us as indigenous teachers from around the globe. Modern cave painters that helped heal and teach youth and communities to hold hands across the highways. Now this part is the painted campfire. The stories of all the painted people that touched my life and walls.


my home town

This is a photo of my home town. The wonderful small community that raised me. Michel/Natal. It had three names, Michel, Natal and Middletown. I was lucky enough to be named after the first, at Dawn: so Michelle Dawn is what I was called. My mom opted out of Sunny… yes as you can guess my mom was an interesting gal. A true free spirit. This photo has a story. The volkswagen bug in the picture is my moms, and she is parked outside of the dentist. Now I am not a huge fan of dentists, and this photo is a paper ink reminder of the horrible experience I was having, as the seemingly harmless bug is sitting on the street in all its pinkness. I have painted this car in one my murals. My mother also ran over my aunt in that car. She was teaching her to drive and somehow backed over her. I can remember standing helping my mother change the gears. Not the safest I agree, but I can still feel the funny metal stick bump as my mom helped me push the gear into place. And as a side point, I don’t drive a stick well either. I do though remember the needle in my mouth and to this day remember this is funny fifty years later the photo makes its way to me. I now have a picture to go with a childhood trauma…laughter and punch buggy no return blasted dentist!

ARTIST Michelle Loughery BC AR:T ROUTE BLUE Michelle Loughery Art

ART IN 2019

There is much to plant and dig in the dirt, when all your heart wants to do is create art, but your voices in your head have another plan. Insert laughing and funny looks of the description of the voices. Yes this highway project has taken much energy and late night sleeplessness. I beat myself up for the lack of art the last year, as I know when art is fluid, so is the projects you push. But the learning curve of digital and the convincing rural communities of the digital need has been brilliant,sometimes dark coloured charcoal sketches and torn up blue prints, that have nearly taken me out by the knees. Art of community is sometimes just holding on to the vision, that you don’t even realize, that is not yours to finish. From the very first mural I painted the people who have surrounded me, from Chambers, art galleries, museums and city halls. All had one vision. A stronger more resilient community for their families. We all have a path to what the version is, but it is truly all in the space of a true community. The fight for the small funding sources and the lack of true payment for nonprofits, has rendered many women that I was lucky enough to be mentored by frustrated, tired and relentless in the support of a stream of community building still so undervalued. Putting this work on the books, so to speak has been a life work of mine. The countless hours added up on ledgers and with this creative economy named to a thematic digital content stream, allowed to flourish, in what has truly been part of community building for centuries. Was art created in those lost hours and weeks of government calls and lobbying. The grants that were written for no pay, the years of grant rejection, but thanks, we sure like the concept, can we use it calls. This movement is about connection and respect. Respect for the work creatives do in everyday life. In art, in non profit, in ball field building, in race track supporting and in the life between the cities and the systems. There is an economy in that stream. It is always present and always has been a stream for those not following in secondary education, to enter the employment and business worlds. We can bring this power together. As a very wise man taught me many moons ago. This man was the manager of our local Chamber in Sparwood BC. He taught me that if all non profits could come together in a hub and could share equipment and services, they all could bring their concepts to fruition. The grant resources could be shared, and what if we charged for those services. The marketing, the tourism the infrastructure volunteering is a service..Imagine Creative Public works.. we are more than the roads and services of our rural towns. We are the way food tastes, the colour of a sign, the sounds of the streets and the creative businesses we entice to live in our plot of community. So if this year lacked painting, it certainly did not lack art. The art of working to bring a movement into reality …Augmented Reality at best.



Watch video on Project TOMATO RED MURAL


Youth Crew on Mural -now on Big Screen

Premiering March 3  2018 Kamloops Film Festival

There is always a story behind every mural. There is always more than paint on the wall. The paint may be attached to the building, and the artist may have let us paint their image, but it is the people of the walls that is the true heart.  The Tim McGraw mural is a powerful image. The cowboy hat, the nod, the howdy we are welcoming you to a true western town. The best cowboys in the area were the First Nations cowboys of the area, rodeo legends and keepers of the range. The dichotomy is, the large famous cowboy was painted with the help of a crew of First Nations Youth and the true country soul belongs to those youth. They did not care who or what we painted, only that we painted.  That we came together to tell stories and share lives and build a project that would help them use and gain skills, and help with tourism and be part of the future path they wanted.

When the mural was chosen to be in the International Film Tomato Red, we all came back together again. Watching with eager eyes, giggly with excitement. The crew has expanded through the years, and small children surrounded us.  The biggest surprise was that the author of the book, Tomato Red, is based out of the area of another project that I was blessed to help create. The Route 66 Mural City in Cuba, Missouri. If this is not enough of a connection, wait until you see the film. The story and the very reason the mural projects are a key strategy to rural communities everywhere, is in the movie.

Youth want to paint a picture for an inclusive future for themselves and their communities. They are the steam to the stem learning that rural communities need to engage and connect with everyone in the population that lives under the big blue skies.

We are all Blue under the sky and we all are part of the economic and social power each community holds. This project was a youth training rural creates tourism based project.

The project was the fourth in a string of Michelle Loughery Mural projects, including the Vernon Mural Project, and the Route 66 Mural Project.  The youth learned employmemt skills, trade skills and art and tourism skills. The early projects innitiatied the P6 economic art philosphy to use created art as a economic and social leverage tool for rural communities.

Artdebris ARTIST Michelle Loughery BC AR:T ROUTE BLUE Route Blue Buoy Art STUDIO ART

ROUTE BLUE #Mural Beads




Route Blue have had roots of indigo for a very long time. As the AR:T ROUTE BLUE CREATIVE HIGHWAY is becoming a digital monument movement, it has taken me back to my roots. And I am overwhelmed by the support and vision of so many people along the way. “Art is not supposed to match your sofa” is pinned to the board of the wall in the attached photo.

This is where my mural and youth projects got their start. In a rural community, based on resource industry, up and downfall town, youth, history and community art. Artists and people working their asses off together, to build a creative rural community that could survive resource downturns.

I am an immigrant grandchild of Canada. I am proud of that. And from the beginning the idea that community art should have to fight for every dime to be able to connect the creative resources of rural communities, has been a bone of contention for me, and many, for decades.

Art and our creative people are the back bone of our rural communities. There is always huge support financially for sport facilities and infrastructure. Community Art is infrastructure. It is the threads that tie a community together. It is our song, our future and our past. So many people have build social and economic industry through community art. Rural communities are full of brilliant community builders, and until that resource is on the financial books of our governments budgets as the resource it is: we will be missing out on a socio- economic tool that is the future of Canada. I am thinking of the women who were the start of #ROUTE BLUE..SPARWOOD BC- Michel- Natal BC. I am thinking of my Auntie Lorraine, my Grandmother Famie, My mother and the women that taught me that community is busy hands tirelessly working to keep their communities strong. Bake sales are part of this economy! and yes baking a good an art. Trust me …it alludes me to this day! dreams of Huckleberry pies and the ladies of Michel Natal.






Find your way through creative wayfinding


Non Profit Power

Wayfinder Original Crew

The name of my projects worked into the word Wayfinder. It was a natural evolution of a path of finding one’s way through community engagement and support. Where did this concept originate from. My hometown! Community learning models existed in education and skills learning in communities for a very long time. My immigrant grandparents knew well how important the word community was as the new Canadians struggled to keep food on the table and support to build infrastructure, businesses alive and children looked after during harsh winters and coal mining disasters.

Non Profit played a huge part in the learning taught to me by the women I was blessed to be related to, friends with, or mentored by. Non-profit truly is a skills and employment program that builds bridges, celebrations, events, galleries, parades, museums and so much more.

I remember weeks of my parents creating floats for our coal miner day parades and the laughter and merriment that would flow from people of all walks of life working together to have fun community events for all our families to enjoy. The enormous dolphins that my dad created by hand, with all us kids fluffing thousands of Kleenex flowers remain legendary to this days back home story telling.

The women of Michel, the little coal mining town I was born in were in many groups, such as the Eagles and many church groups. These groups had much political power and what may have seemed like a social do good mandate, was also a political strategy play that was tangled with tea and crumpets.

I got my first taste of art economy building when I worked with a group of strong women who wanted to build a culture that embraced art and heritage and cultural experiences for their families, to balance the wilderness and hockey cultural assets that are so defining in Canadiana history. Bus trips to the big city of Calgary and historic placemaking with infrastructure in tourism like the Titan Truck, and of course murals.

That of course is just a bit of the start to a placemaking economy that the women of Michel taught me.

This kinship of women who create and build communities has been the spine of all the projects I was blessed to lead. The women who build each other up. The women who dare to be silly, dare to challenge government systems and the women who taught me to be a wayfinder, and find your way through bake sales to million dollar projects …isn’t it all the same ..just more zeros on the budget and bigger community boots to fill.

Non profit is the back bone to our culture in Canada, a unique skills job force training bridge that is struggling as we try to get through the last two years of stick handling. Support your local non profits, look at a town or city without these pillars. I can not imagine the loss of these unique experiences that hold up our economies. I am very grateful for the women of Michel who taught me to see the power in the arts and to be brave enough to pick up the phone and challenge where our tax money goes. Accountability and strategy for strong rural communities is a question I want asked at the polls. What is the plan for the non profits that are grassroots and vital to our future?


Full Circle

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an artist. Not in the traditional sense as my mind sinks into the past. More of conductor of unreachable projects. I think of the grand giant flowers my mother would let me paint on my bedroom walls, or the basement wall. Or my lavender bedspread that I melted with nail polish remover after attempting to paint that too. The art of my childhood was larger than life to me. I wanted all my friends to participate and perhaps it was how I felt included when the mean girls took their shots.

Perhaps that is why my work has been so focused on inclusion. To feel not included in your community of what ever size is like social suicide. The youth and elders that joined me on the walls, sitting on hot, or sometimes freezing scaffolding were part of a huge tribe. The island of misfit toys I used to say.

Now the creative movement is leading the Covid renewal. I worry for the artists who need to learn about copyright and the business of the arts. why? So that the content the creators create is in a shared economy with the artists and story tellers and the stories must belong to the cultures that own them. These properties are not to be traded for small shiny beads that will not sustain the very origin. A movement of wise people must come together as way finders to learn from each other and maintain an economy of resilience for people, place and planet. Route 66 is a famed tourism plan that utilized artists and murals to build a new economy after the depression. That is what the ART ROUTE CANADA plan I have dreamt about is. It is built from a phone call many years ago with a man named David Knudson and a woman named Lorrie Fleming. The result of those calls was the formation of the ROUTE 66 Mural Program, a vision of a chain of numbered murals down the entire length of the road. 20 years later it has happened. I may not have painted them all. But I painted many many, and created the ROUTE 66 Mural city, with my other hat of a community creative economic developer dressed in painting clothes.

SO who are these two? Well Mr. David Knudson and his wife, Mary Lou, are the founders of the National Historic Route 66 Federation, the worldwide, nonprofit organization dedicated to directing the public’s attention to the importance of U. S. Highway Route 66 in America’s cultural heritage and acquiring the federal, state and private support necessary to preserve the historic landmarks and revitalize the economies of communities along the entire 2,400-mile stretch of road.

Lorrie Fleming is the Queen of the Canadian Highway movement and founder of the Route 66/99 Foundation in British Columbia. She is also a founding member of AR:T ROUTE 66/99 a destination mural trail that will cross the borders of USA and Canada in a connected mural digital road trip itinerary.

As Lorrie puts it in her painterly words.

“May we forever be connected on the wings of the Mother Road, a scripture that symbolizes the message within the Peace Arch Monument situated on Highway 99 linking Blaine Washington & Surrey BC – merging together two nations as one ‘contiguous’ pathway for equality & representing the freedom to travel for all humankind!
The US Inscription Reads:  “Children of a Common Mother” and the Canadian Side Says:  “Brethren Dwelling Together in Unity”.  May these Gates never be Closed!
And may the flags of both Countries forever fly high on the Arch’s Crown…”

I am lucky enough to be talking to these two road warriors again. To kick off the digital version brand of an old vision that we three and many many more warriors dreamed.

stay tuned to hear the stories on …coming soon

Life is a painted highway and the people are the music and the songs.

#artrouteBC AR:TROUTE BLUE BLUE ARTISTS BLUE WAYFINDER Stories Destination Mural Town Take it to the wall

Orange and James

When you spend the years that I have in communities on giant walls, in back alleys and streets around the world, the stories that are collected are numerous in number and heartstring pulling.

Mural Art is how human have taught communities since humanity began. It is especially interesting to me that the scaffolding became the gathering spot or the camp fire that was the place to return to, and the place where knowledge was exchanged. Lives were forever connected and healing could be begin.

One of the most powerful events happened in an empty parking lot in Merritt, BC. A man named James would visit the mural wall everyday. He would sit and share his stories. He would pull out of his backpack these rolled up paintings and images that he told me were of his time in the residential schools in Kamloops.

I would listen and buy him tea and a sandwich and we would talk art, culture and how he dreamed of being a full time artist. James struggled with his life, he would numb his pain in ways that were hard on him. But his art arrow was always true and blue. The images still haunt me, the scenes he created were sad.

One day he said to me, Can I paint something with you? Can I paint one of the garbage cans like the crew are painting. How can I be part of the crew?” I said to him easy..pick up a brush and paint.

The image he created was powerful and wonderful. James was a good friend of mine. He brought life to the murals in Merritt. He brought his stories , his humour and all the love of the arts that any artist holds in the palm of their hands. His pain brought healing and helped the crew learn about the residential school time. He showed how art can heal and that by sitting on scaffolding in the hot sun, can burn like a fire. A fire of healing connection. Thank you James for your art and your stories.. May you now rest in peace knowing those children are now being freed and your story of being one of those surviving children will now be in vain. The stories you told and the art you did matter.

Art is the healing we all possess in our hands.