LACOMBE — Tim Giles doesn’t mind when an elderly person stops him mid-brush stroke to talk his ear off about the good old days.
In fact, an anecdote or two can sometimes end up with a final flourish on one of the many historical slice-of-life murals the painter has splashed all over downtown Lacombe.
“The older folks are very supportive . . . There was one guy who came up, told me the numbers on the engines here because he remembers them,” said Giles, 35, gesturing at one of the first murals he did for the town, a 1940s panorama of the train station.
Giles is on the lookout for local photos taken in the 1930s, the theme of his six-year mural project in an area across 49C Avenue from the Flat Iron Building. He’s particularly keen on finding portraits, so he can picture the personalities of the era.
The virtually 360-degree area that he’s to paint adds up to about 9,400 square feet, but it could total more than 12,000 square feet if a few more businesses signed on. It’s a one-of-a-kind spot, where rear parking lots from a number of buildings abut one another.
He’s already put up a first layer on many of the walls, landscapes and rough architecture ready for further details his summer, and eventually, signage, vehicles, animals and people.
He said the big picture behind the project is that murals can help alley-ways leave behind their old image of clashing, dirty colours, deteriorating stucco, and graffiti.
“If it’s visually appealing, instead of ugly, there’s reason to enjoy the alley as opposed to seeing it as a disgusting place,” mused Giles, minutes after a troupe of people could be seen snapping photos of his artwork.
He’s yet to actually start on the walls for the season, and has instead been concentrating on the canvasses in his workshop, rough replicas of what will appear as murals, in order to have them done for the Mural Mania fundraising auction set for June 3.
The Town of Lacombe originally commissioned Giles in 2004 to paint two murals in the run-up to the Communities In Bloom competition, and followed that up with a third mural, before commissioning him for the first mural project with a historical theme spanning from the 1890s to the 1910s.
Giles is paid per square foot and his work is organized through the town’s beautification committee.
“People absolutely love them,” Town of Lacombe special projects co-ordinator Colleen Robinson said of the murals.
She said that after Giles did the first few for the town, private businesses contracted him to do their own murals. And a walking tour has been developed that follows along the path of his work.
For Robinson, it’s all about tourism and pride in one’s community.
“It’s a big draw for people coming into (Lacombe),” she said.
To get Giles your 1930s-era people photos, call him at 403-872-9282 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets for Mural Mania, set for Lacombe Memorial Centre, are $25 and can be purchased at the town office or by calling Robinson at 403-782-1258. The deadline for ticket sales is May 26.