“Like a song, a painting is an emotion.”
The content of a community art mural can be as imaginative as the mind can dream. The context of a mural holds power and action and a hero story.
When involving a youth voice in the art you connect with the youth and change the context into a learning experience and help the youth become the hero in their story. You push the context of the mural by letting the youth pull the context into future ideas; to use as vehicle to reach out to their communities, their world and to their peers, thus leading us into a more socially, environmentally and an economically responsible future.”
Michelle Loughery– Master Artist and International Master Artist has worked in the field of public art for over 30 years and has created over 400 large-scale murals. Her work has included many community Mural Projects, including the famous Route 66 Mural City, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame Mural Project, and the Downtown Vernon BC Mural Project, to name but a few.
These projects and her art have been the catalyst for over 70 million dollars in rural community development in actual cash and in-kind raised, with an unmeasurable tourism, social and educational change for many communities struggling to find renewal. The legacy of these projects have gone on to legacy projects as well as copycat successes in many fields and government arenas.
The human connections and social good that the innovative mural projects created is legendary in the connections, and successes of all those that touched these walls.
Working with intergenerational groups, Loughery draws on her rich experiences in rural Canada to portray a wide variety of historic and contemporary scenes in her murals and art pieces. She carries the name of the small coalmining town of Michel, B.C., in which she was born and raised. Her rare talent in creating large scale -free hand art is an enduring public reminder of Canada’s diverse peoples, heroes and rich cultural heritage. In addition to accepting commissions for public, corporate and private murals, Michelle offers a unique community art program in conjunction with public art mural events.
This totally original program enlists young artist and art students in the community as apprentices, and trains them in the techniques of large format art, while teaching them to map and use their community as a resource and education tool. The projects build powerful social compasses to let youth learn to lead a path either back to the education system, to start their own business or get employment and support from the community resources. Navigating the system, while building lasting legacy tourism and economic tools for communities.
- 2013 Okanagan Art Educator Award
- 2014 Nesika Award Nomination
- 2005 BC Achievement Award
- Public and Community Art Developer-Over 50 million raised to date
- Community Art Educator /Economic and Social Change Developer-Youth Skills – Trades Bridging and Training through the Arts
- Working with intergenerational groups, teens, elders, and children, Loughery draws on her rich experiences in rural Canada to portray a wide variety of historic and contemporary scenes in her murals. She carries the name of the small coal mining town of Michel, B.C., in which she was born and raised. Her rare talent in creating large-scale art is an enduring public reminder of Canada’s diverse peoples, heroes and rich cultural heritage. In addition to accepting commissions for public, corporate and private murals, Michelle offers a unique community art program in conjunction with public art mural assignments. This totally original program enlists young artist and art students in the community as apprentices, and trains them in the techniques of large format art.
- Early career Loughery was born in the community of Michel-Natal in the Elk Valley in southeastern British Columbia, but her family was relocated to the nearby mining town of Sparwood when the community of Michel-Natal was dismantled by the provincial government in the 1970s. Greatly influenced by life in a rural town, Loughery began her artistic career by championing the need for art and culture in small towns. As an art administrator, in her early 20s, Loughery saw the vital need for promoting art in her small town as a means to a creative outlet for the community’s artistic youth including her own children.
- A muralist is born Small town Canada or small town USA. Small town is small town. Growing up in a small town is wonderful and it is constricting, all at the same time. From the dust to the dry emptiness of doing nothing of importance that the world seem to notice: I am a small town girl.I grew up with coal dirt in my knees and art in my blood. Life was not glamourous but it was real. Your neighbors knew your every move and the best you could hope for was a marriage to a good man and a house, a truck, and two kids.I wanted to paint my life over the dust, and I did. With every dip in the liquid crayon box I would imagine my life yellow, or magenta pink. I would dab the dripping colours over everything I perceived to be lackluster or coal dust covered. I yearned for turquois in my breathing and sun yellow in my thoughts. I painted my life colourful. Walls were my canvas and the people I met along the way my muses. The stories of their faces absorbed into each cinderblocks hot surface.What do you want when you come from a small town? Success? To be noticed? To not be noticed? To not be forgettable? Not just be another black and white photo in the archives of an immigrant community that created a place in time? Large walls begged for the stories to be layed at their feet. To take what is invisible and put in on the big screen walls that pepper every dust filled achingly quiet street in every fishbowl town in North America. See me! See us! See the ones that live in the life between the systems and the cities. Alive, wielding a brush as a mighty sword, I will pave my way with bright coloured dreams that will sing from drooping telephone lines and peeling alley walls.Murals resonate with small towns… it is the big screen in a rural way. You are the hero in your own story. You are not invisible.Teaching youth to be visible is what art and painting of murals is. It elevates and it encourages. It lets the new surround the old with light and music. It is art, and it is real and it lets everyone be a hero in their own story.Community Projects with community members and youth volunteers, became the foundation for a career that has expanded the globe and included countless communities and youth.
- Critical success By the 1990s Loughery had moved to Vernon, British Columbia, where she began a community art program that would ultimately see the creation of 25 larger-than-life murals and a life-changing experience for over 500 youth at risk in that community. Loughery realized early in her muraling career that because of the public nature of the murals, it was imperative to include community members at a grassroot level in the creation of the murals. This involvement ensured that the stories captured in the murals would continue long after the mural had been completed. It was also, during this time that she recognized that youth, especially youth at risk, were often overlooked by communities as valuable, potentially contributing citizens. This recognition led her to develop a youth at risk employment and life skills program that hires youth in a community for a set period of time, to work alongside her painting her magnificent creations. The program Loughery developed also includes the training of communities, through non profit organizations and affiliations, to utilize public art in a manner to increase and/or create tourism through economic and social diversification. Thousands of youth have been mentored by Loughery on her walls. Many have continued with her philosophies in education and trades and skills organizations. Loughery and her philosophies have been the subject of many post secondary studies.
- Studio Work –A contemporary studio ARTIST as well as Muralist, Michelle’s work can be seen in many galleries and in many collections around the world. Her work is sought after for the vibrancy of her encaustics and the haunting portraits of the people she has met during her journeys on the walls .
“Community Art enhances the quality of life of a community by helping to define and formulate responses to social, economic, cultural and political issues faced by a community. Community Art contributes to cross cultural understanding, and a sense of ownership and responsibility towards ones community. In its broadest definition, community art inspires community understanding, pride and creativity, and benefits the health and the development of individual and community life. At its best, Community Art is more than simply art integrated, installed or performed in a public place: rather it is a community-based process of dialogue, involvement, participation and healing. Communities are more than roads and sewers, we are art and culture and people and the threads that tie us to our souls” Michelle Loughery