Chemainus, BC on Vancouver Island was one of the first to bring mural art to the streets in Canada on a grand scale! Today, visitors can grab an information brochure and take a self guided mural walking tour around Chemainus visiting with murals while at the same time exploring shops and attractions in the community. There are also interpretive tours with a guide providing a more detailed description of the murals and their history.
Viewing the painted murals provides visitors an opportunity to explore the village and to see one of BC's biggest outdoor art gallery exhibit. The collection of murals were contributed from talented artists, both local and globally recognized. The theme of the murals was centred around the history, culture and traditions of Chemainus, BC.
The mural project in Chemainus came about during the early 1980s. It was then that the area was experiencing economic hardships and the mill was downsizing its operations forcing many in the community out of work. The community needed a new source of income and they turned to tourism. The journey earned the community the name, "The Little Town that Could".
In 1982 the first 5 murals were painted. They were located near Waterwheel Park in the heart of the village. The first ever mural was the "Steam Donkey" painted by Frank Lewis and Nancy Lagana. Today there are over 41 murals and still growing.
Some of the other early murals created in the community include the " Steam Train & Chemainus River" painted by Paul Marcano; the "Fallers and Fir Tree" painted by Thomas Robertson; the "European Arrival" painted by Sandy Clark and Lea Goward; "Logging with Oxen" painted by Harold Lyon; the "Company Store" painted by Dan Sawatzky and the "HMS Forward" painted by Harry Heine. The most recognized mural is "Native Heritage" painted in 1983 by Paul Ygartua.
In the community there are yellow footsteps painted on the sidewalks for visitors to follow from mural to mural. Along the guided tours are many gift shops, antique stores, restaurants, statues, carvings and monuments. Most of the murals are painted on the buildings located on Victoria, Mill and Oak Streets.
The Chemainus Murals has created much recognition for the small community. A big reason some refer to the community as "Mural Town".