Project was collaboration with local artist Carla Tyacke
The Melfort branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is honouring the 100th Anniversary of Poppy sales with a mural on the south-facing wall of their building.
The Legion officially unveiling of the mural was in September. Melfort Legion president Jim Graham said the project helps contribute to the beautification of Prince Albert, while honouring a worthy cause and supporting a local artist.
Graham said the mural is a fitting way to celebrate the Poppy’s 100th anniversary, since it will stand as a year-round reminder of the price paid for war, and how fortunate most of us are to have not experienced it first-hand.
“Carla did such a bang-up job on it, it’s just a fabulous, fabulous work,” Graham said.
“Every chance we have got, we advertised that it is the 100th anniversary of the Poppy.”
Carla Tyacke was invited to create the mural at the suggestion of Sandra Dancey of the Northern Lights Gallery, who first approached the Legion with the idea.
Dancey arranged to have the wall whitewashed with paint donated by Home Hardware, and the Legion paid for other supplies needed to complete the mural.
“It was a fabulous opportunity for us,” Graham said. “We have done some work on the front of our building to try and dress it up with flower boxes and a new step and whatnot, and then getting that done was just like icing on the cake.”
Tyacke said she was very interested in the concept of painting a mural in honour of the Poppy’s anniversary. She just needed to figure out the composition, and decide how best to use the space. She credited the Melfort Fire Department for spraying down the wall, Home Hardware for donating the primer and paint, and the volunteers who prepared the wall so it was ready to use.
“It just all happened so fast,” Tyacke explained.
“I kind of came up with an idea in my head that I used to graph it out with the cinder blocks as a guide, so then I knew how many blocks high and how many wide to do each flower. Once I got the flowers blocked in, then I knew in my mind where I wanted to place the seed pods and the leaves and it just all kind of came together.”
It took Tyacke around 35 hours to complete the mural. In addition to dealing with changing weather conditions, she also had to make sure the project stayed secret.
“I didn’t really tell anybody when I was starting it except Sandra, because I was a little afraid if it didn’t work out I could just paint over it and be done and nobody would ever know I was there,” she said.
“It was a bit scary on that big scale because I couldn’t see up close I would have to get down and step away and see what I was doing because they are pretty big.”
Graham said it completes many improvements done over the last number of years on the building. The Legion has already made a few upgrades to the building’s interior, but they wanted to the outside to be appealing as well to help fit into all the work Communities in Blood do in the Melfort community.
This was Tyacke’s first mural of this scope. She had done smaller interior murals in the past, but this project was so big it required a scissor lift instead of a ladder.
“When I started I had purple sidewalk chalk and I was chalking out and laying out flowers and then when I would get down and step back to see what I had done,” Tyacke remembered. “I couldn’t see so I had to crack open the black paint and I just started to draw, to paint on with black the flowers.
It was a little scary putting black paint on a nicely new white wall. Sandra was a huge encouragement and support. She was awesome.”
Tyacke also has a small version of the mural that has already sold, and another copy of it up for auction at the Legion. She said the small version of the canvas replica sold very quickly.
Tyacke added that the whole concept of poppies was open to great interpretation.
“There are a million different ways to do poppies,” she explained. “I had to figure out what I thought would look good up there, so I did a few different ones.”
Tyacke said the decision to create a mural was a great idea, and tying it into the anniversary of the poppy was extra special.
“I am just honoured that they trusted me and believed that I could do what they wanted,” she said. “It’s been great, they seem very happy so that makes me happy to be included. It’s a huge honour to have been asked to do such as piece.
“I just hope that everybody can enjoy it for a lot of years to come. I feel like it has been a great privilege for me to do, I am so happy I could do that, I enjoyed every minute of it once I got past the fear.”
Melfort’s Saskatchewan Avenue renamed Veteran’s Way
The mural isn’t the only change in Melfort. Graham said they’ve recently renamed Saskatchewan Ave. as Veteran’s Way.
The project received support from city council, but was spearheaded by Communities in Bloom. There are currently 70 banners remembering Melfort veterans on display.
“We have been so fortunate with Sandra now approaching us about the Poppy mural and then Communities in Bloom approaching us about naming Veteran’s Way,” Graham said. “They wrote the letter to the city for that—we didn’t—and then worked with the city on getting a source for the banners.”
The Legion’s job was to get in contact with families and gauge their interest. Everything else was done by the city and Communities in Bloom.
Thankfully, the main room of the Legion Hall—called the Corvette Room—has 850 pictures of veterans from Melfort and area.
“We just walked around and said, ‘we know this veteran’s family so let’s find somebody that knows somebody,’” Graham explained. “One of the family members, we would send them off an email or call them or anything you know. Lots of them were people that we went to school with in the late 60s and they have left the Melfort areas, but they were really happy to do this. Lots of them are coming back to visit to have a look at their parent’s banner now.”
Graham said that the Legion plans to do a small ceremony at Melfort Memorial Garden at 9:30 a.m. on Remembrance Day and then broadcast a regular ceremony on Facebook as they did in 2020.