A view of one of the UpLift! Mural Festival’s first works by artist Fluke on the side of the Snowdome Building at 607 Patricia St. The piece, described as a panoramic celebration of the national park, features vibrant ribbons of colour. | Scott Hayes / Jasper FitzhughScott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Jasper art community is sounding the alarm over Parks Canada’s proposed policies for new murals, with specific concerns on how it would affect the UpLift! Mural Festival.

The proposed amendments to Jasper’s architectural motif, which was developed in the 1990s, were presented Thursday, March 21 during a public hearing of the Planning and Development Advisory Committee (PDAC).

“We really just want to formalize the process and make sure that it is put into the motif that it is recognized as a permissible activity,” said Erin Saunders, manager of Realty and Municipal Services in Jasper National Park.

“Parks Canada has a responsibility to ensure that commercial development and development proposals are evaluated openly and transparently and are consistent with Parks Canada’s mandate and policies.”

She emphasized that Parks Canada has been supportive of the murals in town, which have been painted through the UpLift! Mural Festival.

While allowing murals is one thing, the proposed parameters of the public pieces of art would have to adhere to the Jasper colour palette: the same muted selection of colours that buildings must use for their exterior cladding, for example.

“The motif and the colour palette are suggested – those are supposed to be for the main colour of buildings – but any accent color is permissible,” Saunders said.

“We’re not trying to be restrictive, I guess about colours per se. We’re just trying to make sure that the artwork that is developed in town is representative of Jasper and it’s consistent with Parks Canada’s mandate.”

That proposition brought a strong response from the local art community and even from far abroad. 

Ten people made their pleas in person, and 18 letters from the public were read into the meeting’s record. Some of those letters came from out of town with one originating from as far away as Florida.

UpLift! festival co-organizer Logan Ireland said he knew of other letters that were written directly to Supt. Alan Fehr. 

Many of those pleas made the argument against these proposed changes by saying that artists should have full freedom of expression, at least when it comes to which colours they can use in their creations.

Ireland said it seemed like Parks Canada’s motivation was to ensure everyone will be happy with all murals going forward. He recognized that otherwise the potential exists for public art that could be deemed inflammatory or offensive in some way.

While he understood the desire to mitigate the risk of such a “nightmare scenario,” it didn’t diminish the feel of bureaucratic overreach to him.

“I think that it’s clear with what they’ve proposed that they’ve disregarded the benefits of what murals can do, and they’ve chopped off the ‘upper-end’ potential and sacrificed it for the ‘lower-end’ risk mitigation,” Ireland said. 

“That’s where we come in: we’ve got a lot of experience in this realm. And that’s where the community came in as well.”

The public input took approximately two hours to get through.

“It’s our first opportunity to get out there and hear people’s feedback on the proposed amendments,” Saunders said.

“Once we receive that and the committee recommends their changes to the superintendent, then Parks Canada will decide what the next steps are: whether to proceed with the amendment, to make changes to the amendment or to not go through with it at all.”

Ireland said he expected that decision to come a few weeks from now.

Putting this on the table now makes organizers with the UpLift! festival feel like things are in limbo for 2024.

“Typically, we aim for the festival to be in May,” Ireland said. “We’re still shooting for that, and hopeful that it can all come together in time.”

By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 22, 2024 at 17:00

This item reprinted with permission from    The Fitzhugh    Jasper, Alberta
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