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Connecting With Our Culture: The Aldergrove Legacy Project

ARTCi artists Tracie Stewart and Shelley MacDonald in partnership with ArtStarts and Aldergrove Community Secondary School and several schools in the Aldergrove community are kickstarting a large-scale project that will develop over the course of the 2019-2020 school year.

Six teachers and over three hundred students will participate in this permanent installation. Students from Walnut Grove Secondary School, Betty Gilbert Middle School, Shortreed Elementary School and Parkside Elementary School are participating

The project aims to create a large photographic mural, comprised of hundreds of individual images contributed by Aldergrove’s greater school community, representing the culture and identity of Aldergrove. The images will be a mix of both historic and present day photos. Students will uncover the history of Aldergrove through archival research and community presentations, and will be mentored in the process of storytelling through visual and written means. Students will also contribute their own photos of Aldergrove to illustrate the community today.

The final product will be four panels of individual photos spanning from historic to present day, and supplemented by the stories of the community in both visual additions and in a living, digital archive. The four panels and their individual photos will be united when viewed from a distance through a single image overlay, representing the values that have united the community over time. This mural will span roughly 48 ft across the front of the school building, transforming the stark institutional exterior into one that reflects the heart and history of the school. A smaller version will be on display inside the school.

Aldergrove Community Secondary School  as it is now (fall 2019)

Aldergrove Community Secondary School celebrated its 60th anniversary last year. This event brought the community together and inspired teachers, students, and alumni to research their history, re-evaluate their values and restore their historic symbols. Through the passion, perseverance and leadership of the school principal, Jeremy Lyndon (who is himself an ACSS graduate) the school embarked on a school wide cultural journey and a renewal of pride. This involved covering the gymnasium in murals, designed and painted by artist Dean Lauze, that pulled images from the school’s Totem Pole.

Ellen Neel was the original carver of the Totem Pole, the symbol chosen by the first student council in 1958 to honour the Indigenous students who were billeted in Aldergrove at that time. This Totem Pole was re-gifted to the school at the 60th celebration by Lou-Ann Neel, renewing relationships with local First Nations communities. The 60th anniversary created a desire for community identity, and to discover more about the history of Aldergrove. The prison-like exterior of the building (featured in “Riverdale” as Southside School, and in multiple films as a prison) does not represent what is inside.

The legacy will be a huge installation representing the essence of Aldergrove for decades to come. The transformation of the exterior of the building, recorded stories and explanations displayed in the small interior mural, the website, and the 2 x 2-page spreads in the yearbook ensure each student has a memento of this project.

Tracie is the key visual artist throughout the project and Shelley is bringing her expertise in storytelling and Indigenous protocol to the table. Stay tuned for photographs as the project evolves!

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