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.


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!

BC AR:T ROUTE BLUE mural social art STUDIO ART

Art in the beholder’s eye


Lorrie in Mission City  San Luis Obispo
Bob Walker Photography

Written by Lorrie Flemming

an excerpt from the travel diaries of “The mother road”

Far Beyond what you can see

a non Artist View by Lorrie Flemming

Art in it’s true form lies deeply within the “eyes of the beholder”, a stated fact through the ages. As a seasoned traveler, touched but he beauty that unfolds throughout each journey, I am drawn to places that speak to me by focusing my eye on OUTDOOR ART. Voices of legends echoing passages where we are standing today, personified by Art that pays homage to a renaissance of their vibrant stories, revived by mere glimpse of the past that reaches far into the scope of our presence.

OUTDOOR ART from the viewpoint of a traveler is the quintessential tourism service, a valuable travel guide, an “on the spot” textbook, rendering integral history lessons. By standing on duty 24-7 as the spokesperson to tell each unique story at a glance, instantaneously enhances our image as we pass through the gateways in the pages of time.

Heartfelt gratitude on behalf of my fellow “roadies” is hereby extended to all the artists who diligently set the stage to portray the accounting of specific events & vestiges, truly reflective of out cultural circles. The adage ” a picture paints a thousand words’ is an understatement of that defines the magnificence of outdoor art.

yours from the heart of the road

Lorrie Flemming

May the road be our Educator into the hourglass of time.


A snippet of artwork we discovered by a surprised stop in the Historic Mission City of San Luis Obispo on a trip to California in 2017



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.