What does an art gallery do when they have a storage problem and a building designated historic which they cannot modify?
They think creatively of course.
Diane Toop, executive director of the Station House Gallery, had been in discussion with the directors for quite some time on how to solve the storage issue the gallery had while still maintaining the look of the historic building.
Chairs, tables, plinths, and other items needed for different shows and events were being stored upstairs, which meant a lot of labour and time to move them.
In order to remedy the storage problem but not impact the historic look of the building, they decided to bring in a storage container but utilize a little bit of artistic license at the same time, with a mural to disguise the added space.
Toop looked at old photos of the station house and envisioned combining the historic and sepia tones of photographs with their current colour and bringing some characters from the past to life at the same time, as though they were stepping out of the past.
She was not sure her idea would translate well, but when she explained her vision to Brandy Stecyk, a director on the board, Toop said Stecyk immediately seemed to get it.
Stecyk is an artist and made a mock-up of the idea.
Between Toop and the directors, the idea was fleshed out, and the historic figures were chosen.
“Obviously Libby (Abbot) was going to be on the mural,” said Toop.
Abbot grew up living upstairs in the station house when her father Edward (Ted) Howard-Gibbon was the station manager.
She has many fond memories of living in the station house as a child, and said for entertainment “we just looked out the window.”
Her family moved out of the station house when she was 16 and her father retired from the railway and went to work for the city.
Toop’s grandfather, the local telegraph operator, gave Abbot her first job, and then Toop herself gave Abbot her last job when Abbot worked in the Station House Gallery Gift Shop part-time after retiring from driving a bus.
“Which is such small-town, wonderful connections, you know,” said Toop. “I love that part of the whole thing.”
Another figure on the mural is Vivien Cowan, a well-known member of the Williams Lake artistic community.
“She and her daughters were kind of the movers and shakers behind having the building used as a gallery,” said Toop.
George Keener is the seated figure in the mural, and he was a well-known character who was with the Cariboo Friendship Society since its inception and worked for the Williams Lake Stockyards.
The final figure in the mural is Vivienne Dandridge Langford, who arrived in Williams Lake by train in the 1940s to teach at the Chimney Valley School and during the Second World War was a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (WAC). In the mural, Langford is depicted in her WAC uniform.
Abbot is the only living figure shown in the mural, which was painted by Dwayne Davis and Brandy Stecyk and made possible by an anonymous donor.