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Missing murals can't be found

Where has all the art gone? No one knows, after city staff discovered earlier this month that 12 of the city's paintings had vanished without a trace.

Where has all the art gone? No one knows, after city staff discovered earlier this month that 12 of the city's paintings had vanished without a trace.

The paintings were part of the 27-piece 1994 Alberta Winter Games mural that adorned the walls of Campbell Arena before Servus Credit Union Place was built.

"What we think [happened is] they're stored somewhere but nobody can think where they're stored," said Chris Jardine, the city's general manager of community and protective services.

More than 20 artists volunteered their skills to create the mural that depicted a giant patchwork pattern of winter sports to commemorate the 1994 games.

Coun. Carol Watamaniuk asked city administration to locate the mural more than a year ago, and was stunned to discover 12 pieces remain unaccounted for.

"I'm really upset," Watamaniuk said. "These are city assets and these are artists donating their time … we really need to respect the visual artists in our community."

Watamaniuk said the city's visual arts department has changed staff a few times since the mural was taken down, and that may be one of the reasons the pieces were misplaced.

"The problem is there was many changing hands in the visual arts department," Watamaniuk said.

Last year, former visual arts co-ordinator Diane Gwilliam said some of the pieces had been individually framed and were hanging in staff offices in St. Albert Place.

According to cultural services manager Nancy Abrahamson, those pieces have been found. The 15 images that have been recovered will be erected somewhere in Servus Place this summer.

Artist Carol Brown, who co-ordinated the mural project for the '94 Winter Games, said she and other artists are "annoyed" the paintings are not on display and that some have gone missing.

"It was given free — we weren't paid for that," said Brown. "It was given from our hearts and this is why we're kind of annoyed."

Brown said the city hadn't informed her when the mural was taken down from Campbell Arena.

No space

Jardine thinks the missing pieces might point to a larger issue at hand — the lack of storage space for art materials at city hall.

"Unfortunately, at the time and even today, we still don't have a good one-stop-shop storage place where we keep our artwork that is rotated out of placement," Jardine said.

Watamaniuk is well aware of the city's storage crunch and wonders if there may be other pieces of the city's art collection that are also missing.

"It makes me wonder, are there any pieces from the city's permanent collection that are missing?" said Watamaniuk.

She asked administration to provide council with a comprehensive inventory of the city's permanent collection.

"These things cost money and they should be maintained, and treated properly, and catalogued and we should know exactly where they are," she said.

A new visual arts co-ordinator will begin work at city hall later this month, and Watamaniuk believes one of that person's first tasks should be to locate any missing pieces.

Jardine says St. Albert Place has been scoured and no one can think of where else the missing pieces may be, but one of the mural's artists remains upset.

Brown said she's happy the remaining pieces will be put up where residents can enjoy them, but even though her piece may be one of the missing paintings she said it's not the end of the world.

"What can you do about it now? If there's some of it there [in Servus Place] and mine's not there, oh well, I've been through worse."