A downtown wall once bare is now home to a work of art that showcases the many kinds of beauty in the Fernie area.
The piece, appropriately named ‘All Kinds Of Beauty’ by Fernie artist Michael Hepher, is located downtown on the wall of Beanpod Chocolate and Gelato shop.
The artwork contains many of the elements that make Fernie what it is; recreation, industry, cultural significance, and more. The piece stretches 96 feet in length and about 15 feet in height. Hepher said it was his largest undertaking to date.
Over the past several hundred hours, Hepher says the work has developed from what he envisioned would be him sitting in front of a wall for a month, to a community-focused project with many involved. He said he completed the project with the help of several local artists, not necessarily in the design of the piece, but in the execution of it.
“It’s been really gratifying as an artist, being here, because a lot of people come by and shout out their windows or walk by every day to see progress, and that’s been really encouraging,” said Hepher.
He explained that the feedback to the project so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I think it’s been a really big win for public art in Fernie,” he said.
The Fernie and District Arts Council’s program manager for the project, Louise Ferguson, said it’s amazing to see the piece completed, and added she can’t wait to officially unveil it on Tuesday, October 15 at 5 p.m. Every time she sees it from a different angle, Ferguson said it takes her breath away.
“It just looks amazing, and it really feels like the design has jumped off the page onto the wall,” she said.
The Free Press previously reported that Hepher’s proposal was one of six submitted. The Fernie & District Arts Council explained in a release that the applications were all very strong and they had a, “tough, but exciting time selecting the final piece.”
Ferguson said Hepher’s proposal ticked all the boxes; the design, the location, but most importantly a piece that fit into the historic downtown core and complemented the already ‘picture perfect’ view. As well, she said Hepher’s piece encompasses many different aspects of Fernie, and speaks to everyone.
“I feel like everyone in Fernie can look at it and find something that they can relate to; both as someone that lives here, and visitors to Fernie,” she said. “We wanted the community to be proud of it, and be able to relate to it, and we felt this design could do that.”
In the far left corner of the mural there is a raven, which overlooks the winding Elk River and the town around it. The raven was introduced into the piece in the design phase, after Hepher met with the Ktunaxa Nation. The traditional name of the Elk Valley is Qukin ?amak?is, meaning Land of the Raven.
Placed at a prominent spot in the painting, Hepher said the raven is an acknowledgement of the traditional significance of this historical territory.
By design, the artwork was created to represent everyone.
“I hope that people see a bit of themselves and a bit of something that maybe surprises them about the valley,” he said.
“It’s designed to be a balanced representation of the people here and the place. So if they see something that’s surprising, that’s great, or if they discover something about themselves, that’s also great.
“Ultimately, it’s just symbolic of everybody working together, and the fact that we need all kinds of people to make a community work,” he said.
Hepher thanked the Fernie and District Arts Council who championed the project, and Beanpod owners James and Mary Heavey who supported the project and helped to fuel the artists with coffee. He also thanked Laura Nelson, Brina Schenk, Tara Higgins, Louise Ferguson and Jackie Graham for their support in painting, as well as his family for their patience.
Eighty per cent of the roughly $30k project was funded by the Columbia Basin Trust, and the remaining 20 per cent was funded by the Fernie and District Arts Council through their public art reserve.
Join in celebrating the official unveiling of the mural, located at 7th Street and 2nd Avenue, on Tuesday, October 15 at 5 p.m.
To view more of Hepher’s work visit Michaelhepher.com
To read more about the Fernie and District Arts Council visit Theartsstation.com