Libby Abbot helps a younger version of herself in the Station House mural with a pail of paint, while an image of Vivien Cowan stands on the station platform. Ruth Lloyd Photo - Williams Lake Tribune

Libby Abbot helps a younger version of herself in the Station House mural with a pail of paint, while an image of Vivien Cowan stands on the station platform. Ruth Lloyd Photo - Williams Lake Tribune

Williams Lake mural brings the past to life … and solves a modern problem

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 Williams Lake’s 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.

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. The mural would bring to life some characters from the past, as though they were stepping out of the past.

Toop shared her vision with Brandy Stecyk, a board director and artist, who mocked up the idea.

A mock-up of the proposed mural, combining sepia tones from historic photos with the current colours of the Station House Gallery. Photo Submitted.

A mock-up of the proposed mural, combining sepia tones from historic photos with the current colours of the Station House Gallery. Photo Submitted.

READ MORE: Moose mural looms large in Williams Lake

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,” Toop said.

Abbot lived 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.”

READ MORE: New Chemainus mural depicts a love story in the making

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.

A historic photo of the Station House, which was used to help create the current mural. Photo Submitted

A historic photo of the Station House, which was used to help create the current mural. Photo Submitted

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,” Toop said. “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,” Toop said.

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.

Plan your adventures throughout the West Coast at westcoasttraveller.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @thewestcoasttraveller. And for the top West Coast Travel stories of the week delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our weekly Armchair Traveller newsletter!

British ColumbiaCanadahistoryWilliams Lake