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Stony Plain -The Town with The Painted Past

Sheriff and Hatted Lady Icons

The town of Stony Plain lies south of Edmonton, and is readily accessible to any and all who fly to the Albertan capital to shop and stay at the world's largest indoor shopping area, the famed West Edmonton Mall. And its just joined the Global Association for Murals Art and Cultural Tourism.

More than a score of murals has been completed telling the town's history including, most recently, its twenty year old 'twinned relationship' with Shikaoi in Japan, featuring 'cultural' cross dressing by the two respective mayors! The town was also notably successful in 2004 in recreating two murals lost during redevelopments.

Click on all images throughout to enlarge

Most of the artists are Albertan locals including Wei Luan who was until recently an Edmontonian. The subjects are all powerfully evocative of the town's history none more so than the mural [Strong Arm of the Law] and sculptural depiction of Sheriff Israel Umbach, the town's first sheriff reified for his determined collection of back taxes from the railroad by arresting a steam locomotive and cuffing it to the tracks. Cornelia Wood is also immortalised as The Lady with the Hats - a long serving bastion of the community acknowledged now as then for her millinery trademark! And the Potters' Guild's outstanding contribution of muralised pottery should not be overlooked.

Leadership from Economic Development & Tourism Office of the Town Council

The outstanding success of the town's economic development and tourism office has already led to several awards. In 2004 alone the town was Tourism Leader of the Year from Edmonton Tourism and also took a national Economic Developers of Canada award for their Be a Tourist in Your Own Town program. The mural painting all began as a part of the town's 2000 Millennium celebrations and after that became the responsibility of an arms-length Murals Committee with the unstinting support of Council Mayor Donna Cowan and right around the Council chamber. Vanessa Heitt amongst the fulltime staff plays a particularly key role and regularly shares conducted tours with former Committee member Ralph Jefferson.

But no matter how great the accomplishments so far they are still only too well aware that box stores on the bypassing highway leave downtown Stony Plains with a dilemma - how to metamorphose thereabouts and stay alive. Main Street landscaping has been upgraded and the murals are playing their part, but key stores still reloacte to the edge of town. No easy answers in Stony Plains or anywhere else but directional murals from the modern highway to the old Main Street will surely soon be on their agenda.

...and they have a fine strap line in The Town with the Painted Past!

All in all Stony Plain has much to share with fellow members of the Global Association; and much to learn for the future from others.

Published Date: October 15th 2005

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