Cochrane mural mosaic has a lot to say about branding

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 30, 2009

Cochrane is trying to come to grips with its reputation in the 21st century. Our wonderful little town has entered into a community-wide dialogue on how we want others to see and experience us. What are our strengths? What are our core values?

It’s all about branding.

Branding was the topic of a Sept. 21 town meeting at the RancheHouse. Attention was quickly focused on a new logo: a multi-coloured “stained-glass” horse and rider on top of a straight horizontal line – sort of a stylization of our landmark “Men of Vision” statue at the west end of town, created by local artist Mac MacKenzie in 1990.

According to those at the meeting – I was not able to attend – the controversial new logo was an attempt to put a contemporary spin on our traditional old-west ranching values.

Laurie Drukier, communications coordinator for the town, quoted in last week’s Cochrane Eagle, said, “There are some very strong values: safety, small town atmosphere, feeling connected to people and the geography, connected to the land . . . and connection to history.”

I agree with Laurie, and there is one core value and one symbol of that value that speak most vividly to that quality of life she praises.

Dominating the central staircase of our town offices is the now-world-famous mural, “Trust.”

Unveiled two years ago, the 18-by-12-foot mosaic consists of 216 foot-square panels by 160 artists, mostly local, depicting the fabulous features that make our community one of the most desirable places on earth to live and do business.

(The mural, brainchild of “unity through diversity” artist Lewis Lavoie, can be viewed interactively at

This is an art-within-art mosaic; that is, 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 a value that defines the heart and soul of our community: mutual trust.

Trust, as a core value, is especially important to me as a Scripture scholar. It is an essential building block for the quality of life referred to in the Hebrew Bible as shalom.

Often loosely translated as “peace,” shalom is a far more complex word. It represents ideas like well-being, prosperity and happiness, in addition to more commonly understood ideas like inner contentment and non-hostile relationships.

Without trust, there can be no shalom/peace – no sense of community-building as we Cochranites have come to know and appreciate it.

Around 600 BC, there was a Hebrew prophet who spoke along the same line. Addressing those of his people who had been taken captive into Babylon (modern-day Iraq), Jeremiah delivered a message from God:

“Seek the welfare (the shalom) of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).

There was a sense among some of Jeremiah’s audience that, since they were mere sojourners in the land, why should they care about community-building. Take care of number one and get out of there as soon as possible.

But this was not God’s way of shalom. They were to trust God, trust each other, and become branded as agents of trustworthy blessing, even among their captors. Indeed, their own well-being was intimately connected with the well-being of the community as a whole.

There is a sense in which all of us today are just passing through this world – sojourners, so to speak, in our part of the beautiful Bow Valley. Some might think that, since we’re just passing through, it’s none of our concern to take care of the community and place in which we find ourselves.

But such an attitude would be a breach of trust with our Maker, with each other, and with our host, the Rocky Mountain foothills, our earthly home.

Here, trust, peace, mutual well-being and happiness are of the essence of our collective identity. The trust that builds shalom – the trust that builds happy community – is our brand.

That’s what Cochrane’s mural mosaic is all about.

Canada’s national motto, a mari usque ad mare – “from sea to sea” – is taken from Psalm 72. That same psalm alludes to the kind of community others will recognize us for if we take our authentic branding of trust seriously:

May the mountains yield prosperity (shalom) for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.

© 2009 Warren Harbeck

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