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Paint the town: New Shelburne artwork policy gets thumbs up from local artist

Melissa Stachan-Boutin stands in front of the mural designed by Little People’s students and supported through the Town of Shelburne’s new public art policy.
Melissa Stachan-Boutin stands in front of the mural designed by Little People’s students and supported through the Town of Shelburne’s new public art policy.

Colour and artwork have been popping up throughout the Town of Shelburne this summer. 

A bright mural of children’s visions, brightly painted crosswalks and a mural at the Osprey Art Centre are just some examples, and thanks to a new art policy adopted by the town, it's only the beginning.

It's hoped the new public art policy recently approved by Shelburne town council will be the first step in creating vibrant public spaces that will appeal to both residents and visitors.

It already appeals to local artists.

Melissa Stachan-Boutin is a local artist who has several art projects displayed throughout the town, including a mural in the works at Graham’s Park, where she is using one of the town’s buildings as a canvas.

The project was a collaboration between Little People’s Place Daycare Centre, Our House Youth Wellness, and the town. It also received funding from the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Children at the daycare were asked to draw what they thought should go on the space and Stachan-Boutin was able to bring it all together into a bright, fun mural.

“The kids had so many ideas and colours,” she said.

Stachan-Boutin is also working on two walkability installations for the town and Our House, which aim to encourage activity and art. One will be placed along the rail trail in Shelburne and contain positive messages encouraging kids to keep moving forward.

The second will be placed on the waterfront along Dock Street - and it will be hard to miss. Two-foot sculptures will be placed around the waterfront for people to find.

“They are nature-inspired sculptures of little people in acrobatic or dancing poses… tactile shells from the beach or colour inspired by Louis Head or Island’s Park…people are encouraged to find them,” she explained.

When she completes the sculptures, Stachan-Boutin and the town's public works employees will install them.

 

'Taken more seriously'

She says the policy will make a big difference for local artists.

“It gives an artist grounds to be taken more seriously,” she said.

The town will be committing $7,500 from its operating budget but will also assist in selecting locations, providing public spaces, applying for grants, fundraising efforts, installations and finding artists.

Area residents will have their say as well. The town wants to engage residents through a jury committee to help make recommendations to council on the artwork featured in public places.

 “Public art adds to the identity and quality of the civic landscape, enriches our experience of public spaces, pays tribute to particular sites, individuals and events, builds civic pride, fosters community and enhances the town’s cultural heritage,” read the policy.

Council hopes the policy will create vibrant public spaces for residents and visitors, enhance the town’s appeal, reflect the diversity of the community, celebrate shared cultural heritage, strengthen neighbourhood and community ties and provide opportunities for local artists.

“It gives an artist grounds to be taken more seriously,” said Stachan-Boutin.  “Public art is more of a process than people might first think… This helps to make it more professional."

Stachan-Boutin, like many artists, hopes to eventually support herself through her craft. Currently, she works as an artist, youth worker, art instructor and manager of a farmer’s market.

“But, I am an artist first. All of the other things supplement the art,” said Stachan-Boutin.  “Of course, doing it as a hobby is fine, but I prefer to be paid.”

 

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