Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff-Delburne Photo project-Only a fraction of the more than 300 black and white photographic portraits by Toronto photographer John Beebe of Delburne residents remain on public buildings in the Village of Delburne.

Delburne murals fading quickly

A photo mural project that was the pride of Delburne last week is now a community disappointment.

A photo mural project that was the pride of Delburne last week is now a community disappointment.

The large photo portraits of more than 300 local residents that were mounted to the sides of several Delburne buildings have already mostly come down in the rain.

This happened despite estimates by Toronto photographer John Beebe and his installation expert, Dan Bergeron, that the photos would remain on buildings for six month to two years.

When asked previously about whether thin paper and wallpaper paste could withstand Alberta’s climate extremes, the two stated their estimated time frame was based on how long similar mural projects lasted in other communities across Canada.

But on Thursday, Beebe admitted Central Alberta’s wet June weather is “not typical of other places where these kinds of installations have happened. … We were faced with just brutal weather conditions.”

“I felt very lucky to be part of this community (project) and when I saw the photos of what happened, I was just devastated,” said Beebe, who intends to return to the village on Sunday to see what can be done.

He knows many residents want to preserve a visual component to the Belonging project, which also asked for their input on priorities for Delburne’s future.

The project’s organizer, Nora Smith, a Delburne Family and Community Support Services Worker, shares in the disappointment expressed by local residents about the lack of longevity to the mural component of the Belonging project — particularly since many local volunteers were involved with it.

“I’m certainly not thrilled. It’s frustrating that the murals have come down,” said Smith, who’s at a conference in Toronto and saw emailed pictures of the destruction.

Considering that only about 15 per cent of the photos remain on the walls — and most of these are in pieces — she does not believe it will be possible to salvage the original murals. “We’ll need to clean them up.”

Smith is asking for community input about what can now be done to ensure the spirit of the project lives on in some more permanent form.

There was mention of compiling the digital photos into a book. And Beebe suggested he could also consult with outdoor advertising experts to see how a more weather resistant version of the pictures could be installed in the village. He said it’s up to local people to tell him how they want him to proceed.

Residents of Delburne have been expressing their disappointment online. Some are upset that the Belonging project cost $50,000 — but Smith noted that this total also included all the community consultations done to determine that expanded services, downtown revitalization and an improved communications strategy in the village were priorities for the future.

Of the total spent, she said about $6,000 went to the actual installation of the murals.

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