Canada’s 150th Birthday celebrations are taking place throughout the country this year. Communities from coast to coast are commemorating this milestone, called a “sesquicentennial”, by many unique and varied events in unique and varied locations.

One event that captured my attention is the Canada 150 Mosaic Project. Painting tiles to form a mosaic sounded intriguing, so I signed up, not really knowing what to expect.

Just days before my scheduled time to paint I discovered that I was expected to come up with my own design. I’d assumed, incorrectly, that I would fill in a design or pattern, much like a paint-by-number. This could turn out to be more challenging than I’d counted on.

The Mosaic Project

Fortunately I had a day to come up with some ideas. What comes to mind when I think of my community? The lake, the beach, orchards, vineyards, Giant’s Head Mountain, arrowleaf balsamroot flowers scattered over the hills in the spring, silty cliffs, the steam train — these features describe Summerland.

Armed with a couple of photos for reference, I made my way to the Arts Centre for my session. I was immediately drawn to a display spread over several tables: the mural taking shape, tile by tile. I noticed that some tiles were very detailed, while others had simpler motifs.


Before starting to paint, we received an overview of the Canada 150 Mosaic Project by Phil Alain and Paul Lavoie, two of the founders of Mural Mosaic. The idea for this particular project took shape approximately five years ago and launched two years ago. Phil and Paul travel to designated locations and conduct the mural making events. Meanwhile, the third member of the trio, renowned artist Lewis Lavoie, spends the majority of his time back in the studio designing the murals. In dialogue with each community, Lewis designs the mosaic to reflect the unique characteristics of an area.

To date, dozens of communities have already completed their murals. Canada’s railway history is the common thread connecting each of the murals. Each train car mosaic tells the story of that community in images and objects.

Penticton’s Completed Mosaic
Selkirk’s Completed Mosaic

Summerland’s design certainly captures the essence of what makes this community special and unique.

Summerland’s Mosaic Design

Painting Mosaic Tiles

Taking a spot at one of the tables, I had access to several paint brushes and a palette of acrylic paints. I was given a specially manufactured 4″ x 4″ tile. My painting should consist of mainly greens or blues, I was told. This would assist in filling a particular section of the mosaic. Never having painted with acrylics, I felt intimidated, but figured my finished tile would fit in nicely with those created by the grade school kids.

Dabbling with the paints, I fashioned a primitive painting. Several of us were invited to paint another: there were plenty of blank tiles. After hesitating a bit, I decided, why not, I’m here already and maybe my next one would turn out better. I rock at the primitive art form.

mosaic-red chairs
My first painted tile
Reference photo
My second painted tile
Reference photo

The Mural Nears Completion

The following day I returned to see the mural’s progress — folks in the room diligently painted their tiles, and only a few spaces remained. Looking closely, the details stood out. I was delighted by each unique and wonderful miniature painting. Stepping back, the mosaic took shape before my eyes.

Mosaic Detail
mosaic-nearing completion
Nearly completed mural
Bird’s eye view of the mural

Phil and Paul’s final task — adhering each tile in its designated position — took place that evening. The following day, they were on the road again, leaving a beautiful community-created art mosaic in our town.

The Canada 150 Mosaic project is impressive and far-reaching. I am grateful that I took part in this lasting tribute to my community and to Canada’s 150th birthday. I’m so grateful that our country celebrates and values the intricate mosaic of unique and varied peoples and cultures that call Canada home.

Did you paint a tile in Summerland or in another community? Tell us about it in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Canada 150 Mosaic Project Comes to Town

  1. Wow, that is so cool! I had never heard of this. The paintings are marvelous. Good job! What a wonderful idea.

  2. We painted tiles too. You can see mine in your detailed picture. It was a fun thing to do, since I wasn’t interested in the athletic 150 challenge. I really didn’t know what I was going to do either, but was asked to do something blue-so mountains ,sky and snow was what I came up with.

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