Mosaic of unity and trust celebrates Cochrane legacy

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 12, 2007

This week I will have one of the greatest community honours I could have ever hoped for since beginning Coffee With Warren. I’ve been asked to emcee the unveiling of the breathtaking mural “Trust” at Cochrane RancheHouse, 7 p.m., Sept. 12.

“Trust” is an 18-by-12-foot mosaic consisting of 216 separate one-foot-square panels. Its oils and acrylics celebrate so many of the fabulous features that make our community one of the most desirable places on earth to live: its natural setting and social legacy, as interpreted by over 160 artists, some accomplished and others not so accomplished but passionate nevertheless.

This is an art-within-art mosaic, and like our Bow Valley part of the world, it can be seen as both the individual contributions that make it up, as well as the work as a whole. The discrete contributions of each of the panels, with their distinctive detail of prairies, foothills, mountains, wildlife, First Nations heritage, settlers, ranchers, buildings, and more, come together to create a single heartwarming whole-mural image of a girl pressing her cheek against the face of her horse – an image of mutual trust that defines the heart and soul of our community.

“Trust” is the brainchild of internationally renowned artist Lewis Lavoie. Lavoie is committed to “the collective power of individual expression.” His slogan, “Unity through diversity,” underlies the community-building goal of this intriguing art form.

The project began as a visual arts proposal among Cochranites concerned that the RancheHouse, our town hall, feature a work that the whole community could get behind as a vision of our past, present and future.

To this end, the Cochrane Community Arts & Culture Committee (CCACC) was created three years ago as a volunteer advisory group to Town Council and Lavoie was contracted to bring his well-suited Mural Mosaic concept here.

Lavoie held workshops for the mosaic artists. He gave them no hint of what the overall final image of the mural would be, but simply asked them to paint their own micro-masterpiece of how they saw Cochrane and area. Their only restrictions related to the colour(s), shifting tones, and general shape of their composition.

Only after their work was completed and all the panels placed in their final layout during Cochrane’s July 1 Art Walk did the individual contributors see for the first time how their images combined to create a very different grand image: the girl and horse in a relationship of trust.

One of the panel painters, town Councillor Mary Lou Davis, told me she was stunned to see how awesome the resulting product was.

“It just shows how great you can make something when each person does their part,” she said.

I find it interesting that Mary Lou, a successful entrepreneur in her own right, portrayed contributions of five other strong women from different eras in the life of our community (panel 152 of the mosaic).

Mary Lou is not the only local politician to add to the mural. Other council members and administration staff are also represented, as are young folks, old folks, whole families, stay-at-home bodies, lovers of the out-of-doors, and contributors from more backgrounds than you can imagine.

Particularly noteworthy are the many serious artists who, in addition to Lewis Lavoie, participated in the project, thus demonstrating their belief in the community-building power of their medium.

Cochrane artists such as Rose Palen, for example. Rose captures the varieties of lifestyle in our community in a panel (number 52) she entitled: “‘The Cochrane Hill’ Where Ranching History Lives, Suburbanites Blend in, the Adventurous Fly” (a reference to the hang gliders who have made Cochrane breezes world famous).

And Morley artist Roland Rollinmud. With his depiction of a Stoney Nakoda First Nation dancer (panel 138), Roland points in a special way to the unity in cultural diversity that is the dream of many.

To find out more about this impressive celebration of life in our valley, go to and follow the links. Be sure to click on each panel for the identity of its artist. Reprints of the mosaic, individually signed by Lavoie and suitable for framing, will be available for $100.00 each at the RancheHouse and at Paintbox Artist Supplies in Cochrane.

Some years ago another panel artist, Marie Sigurdson, shared with me a phrase that has become somewhat of a philosophy for life: “Brushstrokes of joy, love and laughter.” Inspired by our new mural, I’d like to include “trust,” as well.

Join me at the unveiling and be reminded afresh how each of us can be just such brushstrokes on this amazing canvas we call home.

© 2007 Warren Harbeck

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