Nature Richly on Display on Salmo Community Building

A playful mural highlights the surrounding environment.

4 minute read

A playful mural highlights the surrounding environment

To stoke her imagination, abstract artist Jessa Gilbert hiked the mountain peaks and valleys surrounding the Village of Salmo. Her goal was to develop a concept for a larger-than-life public art piece that celebrated the natural beauty of the area.

Now, a stunning mural, measuring roughly 3 x 22 metres, depicts the valley’s streams, creeks and mountain ranges across the top of a centrally located building that houses the Salmo Valley Youth & Community Centre (SVYCC).

Spearheaded by the Salmo District Arts Council, a non-profit society devoted to supporting community arts and culture, the project was backed by a Public Art Grant from the Trust and complements three other murals already on the community building.

The mural captures the natural surroundings in a “shift in time” abstract piece that delicately transitions left-to-right from winter through summer. The snow-covered peaks of Kootenay Pass run off into a flowing river, which bleeds into the valley’s soft green terrain.

“One of the challenges I set for myself as an artist is how to create a piece that feels like it’s evolving or in motion even though I’m using a static material,” she adds. “This piece emulates the rolling terrain features nestled within the Kootenays, so there’s a lot of circuitous movement and organic shapes. I want that playfulness and the ebb and flow of line to show things moving. I also take how we read things with our eyes into account; a curved line is going to have you move across the piece a lot differently than angulated lines.”

The community centre houses many programs that benefit Salmo residents and annually sees over 15,000 people pass through its doors. Its latest mural represents the environment and has become a point of pride for the youth and residents who frequent the community centre.

“The community centre is a hub; it’s a large building that used to be the high school. The community rallied to save it when it was slated for demolition back in the early 2000s,” explains Laurie MacDonald, Salmo District Arts Council member and the Executive Director of the SVYCC. “For the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve been spending our time upgrading and defining the space.”

MacDonald was already working toward beautifying the beloved space with another mural when she met Gilbert on a hiking trip at Ice Creek Lodge in the Valhallas. Fate may have had a hand in the initial connection, but Gilbert’s portfolio of West Kootenay landscapes was what really impressed MacDonald. Gilbert thoughtfully merges the outdoors with brilliantly bold-coloured public art pieces that reflect the abundance of natural beauty within local communities.

Originally from New York, Gilbert’s love for the mountains has positioned her in various mountain towns in the Basin with her sketchbook in hand.

“Art is for everyone—it’s free, it’s accessible, and it shows the community’s diversity,” says Gilbert. “The goal is to celebrate wilderness and adventure and to have the pieces I make feel joyful. I want them to be rich in colour and light and have an uplifting tone that evokes the awe we feel when we experience mountain landscapes or grand vistas.”

While mural art is not new to Salmo, MacDonald recognizes Gilbert’s work as a unique contribution that celebrates the community and its valuable natural environment.

“We couldn’t have done this without the Trust,” she adds. “This is a really big, beautiful piece of art that reflects what’s important to our community, and we wouldn’t have been able to leverage the resources any time soon without that support. It’s immensely important to us, and we’re so grateful.”

The Trust worked with Jessa Gilbert to commission a deck of #basinlife playing cards to celebrate the wonderful place where we live, work and play.

Fill out the form below to get your own deck. Tag us in your #basinlife photos and show us where these cards travel.

Eligibility is limited to mailing addresses with in the Canadian portion of the Columbia Basin region.

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