Art Anywhere: Fort McKay Youth Center paints murals on shipping containers

A shipping container became an opportunity for creativity and art in Fort McKay, as children from the local youth center helped design a mural adorning the unit.

Dylan Elias, director of the youth center, said the project started when the youth center ran out of storage space and the football team needed a place to store their equipment.

The shipping container arrived, which they saw as a large empty canvas.

“It’s right here on the road, so everyone walks past,” Elias said. “Why not give a little taste of what’s going on here so that everyone can see it?” “

The ideas came from the children of the youth center, between 9 and 19 years old.

“You can turn it all into a little art exhibit,” Elias said.

He said people called him to ask him about the project.

“I also see people coming from the road, I see them coming up and going up,” Elias said. “It’s definitely unique.”

Elias said that since the start of this project the children have become more creative and now find other places to paint.

One side of the mural represents the youth center football team. (Jamie Malbeuf / CBC)

Brace Grandjambe goes to college in Calgary for art, but returns home to Fort McKay each summer to be an art camp coordinator.

She used the children’s ideas and designed the mural facing the road. It houses a wolf with a pride flag in its mouth, a dragon, and the word Ahkaméyimok, which translates to “don’t give up” in cry.

Grandjambe and Art Camp Coordinator Richelle Stewart did most of the paintings, but all the ideas came from the kids.

“We had a lot of ‘wow’, and I think they were very happy to see their ideas actually represented on a giant piece of metal that was previously blank,” said Grandjambe.

It took about three weeks to paint the murals.

Richelle Stewart, left, and Brace Grandjambe worked with the children of the youth center to create the murals. (Jamie Malbeuf / CBC)

The other side of the shipping container was designed by Richelle Stewart. She is also artistic coordinator for the youth center. This is the logo of the football team, which also uses the storage space.

It’s the logo of the team in an ocean, as they loved the pun of having the sea on a sea can.

“We took the time to make it nice, because I think it’s good for the community, good for all of these students to have their say and their expression,” said Stewart.

Stewart said she now sees most of the empty spaces around the community as an opportunity to create art.

The shipping container is almost finished, the last piece is a tree with leaves made from the handprints of the children of the youth center. Handprints are painted red and orange to represent murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, as well as children in unmarked burial grounds of former residential schools.

Children in the youth center will put orange and red handprints as leaves on the tree. (Jamie Malbeuf / CBC)

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