Aldergrove Community Secondary School Legacy Mural
Written by: Tracie Stewart
When Stephanie Martyniuk and Brooke Leary asked Artists Rendering Tales Collective Inc. to help facilitate their school improvement project I was genuinely excited to embark on this journey of identification through creation.
The history of Aldergrove Community Secondary School was infused with the stories of thousands of students who traveled from around B.C. Billeted in Aldergrove, they traveled from northern BC to complete their high school education from 1950 onwards.
I too came from a northwestern town to the Lower Mainland to go to school so I connected with the homesickness these students must have felt. I learned about Ellen Neel and how she carved a house post with totems representing all of the nations gathered together. This led to the naming of the Algergrove Totems and a feeling of connection.
Ellen Neel was a progressive and inspiring matriarch. With her talents for carving she supported her family at a time when women were not recognized in this field.
Inviting Lou-ann and Teresa Neel into the conversation were a must. ARTCi’S Shelley MacDonald guided us on cultural etiquette, how to listen and how to be a witness to storytelling with Elders. ARTCI’s Videographer Brunella Battista, and educators Stephanie Martyniuk, Brooke Leary, Diane Courtney, and Kirsteen Cowan generously supported the project through their mentorship.
Lou-ann shared how Ellen’s work was rooted in transformation stories revolving around human relations with animals and their environment.
My work was to help the students find the Genius Loci of Aldergrove and give it a voice with imagery. A collaboration amongst all involved, every voice was heard. The students and I dove into the essence of Aldergrove, past and present. We came up with an overlay image that was superimposed over an incredible mass of photos collected from the Aldergrove Heritage Archives and compiled by the students, Stephanie, and Brooke. Along with the public archives, many students contributed photos. Some students became mentors to 4 neighbouring elementary schools, teaching photo and interviewing techniques. The resulting documentation spanned many generations of Aldergrove residents.
The project started in 2019 with the intention of an unveiling in 2020 alongside graduation ceremonies. Due to Covid 19, the project was stalled. The mural was revealed in the spring of 2021.
When talking with the students about the resulting work I saw a real pride in their completed project. The relationships developed will continue. Mentoring is a life long role. “Once a mentor, always a mentor.”
Helping people to connect with their authentic voices is a role Artists Rendering Tales Collective Inc. takes pride in.
This project came to life through the generous support of the Parents Advisory Council and ArtStarts along with the many teachers and artists involved.
To view media coverage of the mural visit:
District website (also contains longer video): https://www.sd35.bc.ca/news-events/district-board-news/view/collaboration-connection-and-culture-students-beautify-school-with-aldergrove-legacy-project/