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Bearspaw School Mural Project

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Nothing keeps an artist more present than 600+ students, staff and volunteers collaborating to create a 6 x 12 ft mural… Just say YES and work backwards.

7 months ago I was asked to work with an entire school, Kindergarten- Grade 8, staff and volunteers, to create a mural for their school in Calgary, AB. I had never done this before, but thought it would be a challenge to figure out and accomplish.


Do one thing a day that scares you… sometimes it may absolutely be an amazing experience.


First off, I created a painting for the school using one of the parents photo reference of a bear with the view of the beautiful Rockyview district this school is fortunate to view daily. I added things we can relate to a school day- crosswalks, snacks, backpacks, laptops, books, pencils, primary colors, etc.




Then the work began. Hire a team and get the volunteers in place. We prepared the frame, prepped the wood for paint. I projected the image on the wood frame and then cut and organized the tiles.




Then came the painting part. Class by class, I worked with the students and the staff as they learned to mix color and paint their 4×4 tile. Each tile looked like a mini abstract painting. It was daunting at times and I wondered many times if it would actually work…. “HAVE FAITH” was the mantra…



At times, I thought the end would never come…but like all good things it was worth the wait. The next step was assemble, tile the squares and pray they actually created an image. As I flipped each tile and glued, we watched the image appear. I was overjoyed with the result. I also gained an appreciation for the skill of tile layers and good volleyball knee pads!



Then came the varnish. As I applied the varnish to each tile with a brush, I had the joy of remembering all the moments of observing everyone learning to mix color and be brave enough to paint a little square with my coaching… “Think sky, trees, grass, fur…” it will be perfect;)



And it was indeed a fabulous collaboration. The mural will be hung in the foyer of the school for generations to come. I am so proud I said YES!




Thank you to the team of volunteer that helped make this possible.



Artist-in-residency school program bringing artists to schools for customized, curricular themed instuction.
Michelle Austen - Artist-in-Residence, Bearspaw School

Bearspaw Mural 6x12ft


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