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Sister Alphonse Academy unveils two murals

3-2-1! The plastic curtain dropped from the mural and an audible gasp was heard throughout Sister Alphonse Academy’s auditorium.

Cellphone photographers quickly dashed towards The Humble Seamstress, an eight-foot by 28-foot horizontal mural created by Mural Mosaic, otherwise known as Lewis Lavoie and Phil Alain.

It was the first unveiling of two legacy murals that left more than 150 participants wide-eyed with wonder.

Within minutes, a packed audience assembled in front of the mural, each individual searching for a tile/s they painted for the community project.

Adalynn Robinson, 7, a Grade 3 student at École Marie Poburan, was among the crowd hunting for three flower tiles she painted.

“It was fun to paint. And I think it looks cool because of all the different tiles in it,” said Robinson.

The Humble Seamstress celebrates Sister Alphonse, a Sister of Charity (Grey Nun) and the first teacher at St. Albert mission. Archival information notes she arrived in St. Albert at age 23 and was considered, “jovial, resourceful; a real sunshine for somber days.” She learned Cree to communicate with First Nations and used her gifts as a seamstress to create income.

The mosaic is presented in the form of a story that travels from left to right. Immediately at the left is Sister Alphonse standing beside a young boy and girl. From beneath her feet, a colourful quilt swirls across the tiles cupping a slew of objects. They include books, musical instruments, writing tools, magnets, a globe and wrench symbolizing different school subjects such as science, math, literature, geography, music and shop.

“We thought of the quilt as a way of depicting future education. And then the story moves through history and we show the students can become anything they want. We left it open-ended,” said Lavoie.

The second smaller mural is The Tree of Life, a stunning eight-foot by 10-and-a-half-foot vertical mural that depicts a love of the natural world.

Painted exclusively by professional visual artists, it is camouflage art at its best due to a distinctive use of theme, design and pattern that helps viewers discover hidden visuals.

The 336 tiles depict a massive tree complete with animals camouflaged throughout the trunk, branches, leaves and deeply entrenched roots. Each tile carries a hidden message as hundreds of magnificent birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and insects from every corner of the world fight for viewers’ attention.

“This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time. We tried to capture the creation story while the lower part honours the Sisters of Charity,” Lavoie noted.

Alain added, “To me it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of art we’ve created. The tiles are beautiful. The mural is beautiful. It’s a symbol of life, strength and beauty.”

In addition to Lavoie and Alain, the professional artists who created The Tree of Life include Lavoie’s brother Paul, Igor Postash and Julie Kaldenhoven.

In between shaking hands with many of the attendees, Alain summed up the project by saying, “Every time we do a mural, and we’ve done over 200, it never gets old. To watch people from children to professional artists appreciate the work is truly rewarding. Instead of just one artist painting an image for a community, it’s a community painting an image for one piece of art.”

The entire project was budgeted for $50,000. The Humble Seamstress is destined to hang on a wall outside the school’s main door whereas The Tree of Life will be visible in the main foyer.