Two artistic siblings returned home to central Alberta this summer to help preserve the history of their hometown of Bashaw through a mural project.
“It’s really exciting to be able to help enrich our home community,” said younger sibling Kyle Simmers, who lives in Calgary now.
Older brother Derek flew back from Toronto to help Kyle restore a 40-foot mural of the town’s main street. It was originally painted in the late 1980s by Benalto artist David More.
Both of the Simmers grew up looking at More’s mural of the town’s main street as it appeared in the horse and buggy days. But the familiar painting has faded from three decades of sun, snow and wind.
Kyle reflects that a lot of Bashaw’s historic buildings, as depicted in More’s original mural, are still standing in the town and are identifiable. “It hasn’t changed that much in the decades since…”
Over the next few weeks, the siblings will also add to their hometown’s public art collection by creating an original new mural of an old Texaco gas station that used to exist in Bashaw. It will be painted on a Quonset hut that’s now in the same location.
As well, they will be restoring an old sign for the Bashaw Fire Hall Museum.
Kyle, who identifies as non-binary and uses pronouns they/them feels it’s an honour to preserve More’s work since More taught them visual arts at Red Deer College, now Red Deer Polytechnic.
“We got Dave’s blessing” on the mural’s restoration, said Kyle.
The siblings noted it’s a very large and onerous undertaking — especially during these hot summer months.
Both RDC alumni, who have collaborated on several Calgary murals as well as doing solo art projects, have been drinking a lot of water over the last 12 days since starting the mural restoration. The siblings have also retreated for regular breaks under a shady tree.
Kyle noted the paint they are using loses its binding properties when the temperature climbs past 30 C, so they can’t work when it becomes so hot.
More is curious to see their progress, noting all artists bring their own styles to the table. “I was pretty pleased they were willing to do it… My hats off to them.”
The artists were sent slides of his original mural to help with their colour matching. But as long as the spirit of his original painting is retained, More believes he will be satisfied with the end result.
More had plans to visit Bashaw with fellow retired RDP film instructor Larry Reese Thursday to check out their progress — as well as to participate in a short documentary film that’s being made of the Simmers’ murals projects in their hometown.
Filmmaker Tim Ursuliak is a former student of Reese’s and a friend of the siblings.
Kyle and Derek are looking forward to the reunion. They are also pleased to be collaborating once again after several years of pursuing their own artistic endeavors.
“It’s interesting to see how we grew during that time, what drives us now, and how we contrast one another,” said Derek.
Although he moved to Toronto with his wife nine months ago to join a community of designers in Canada’s largest city, Derek said he always appreciates visiting his hometown, with its more “gentle” pace of life and the familiarity of old friends and neighbours.