Last spring, Bonny Macnab, an artist based near Mervin, responded to a call for artists issued by the City of Regina. The prospective project was a mural for the new Mosaic Stadium that “would celebrate the memories of the old field and have community participation,” said Macnab.
The proposal submitted by Macnab featured a mosaic mural and a community element in the form of submitted personal photos taken at Taylor Field by Saskatchewan Roughriders fans.
After she sent her proposal, several months passed. That summer, Macnab took part in a Saskatchewan Art Board’s ArtSmart grant in Turtleford. Macnab had local children paint over a tile she had previously painted, involving them in the artistic process. More than 100 tiles were painted and arranged into a finished mosaic.
Then, in the fall, Macnab got a call she’d been waiting months for. September she was officially commissioned to create the new Mosaic Stadium’s mural. Since then, Macnab has been working on the massive undertaking every day. This year, the City of Regina launched www.regina.ca/residents/farewell-season/art-project/, a website for fans to submit their Roughriders photos along with their story for the chance to be selected and have their photo included in Mosaic Stadium’s mural.
Going into this project, Macnab wasn’t sure what to expect from the fan response. The result of the submissions has been a new awareness and appreciation for what the team means to the people of Saskatchewan.
“I think, before, I thought it was just like a party. Like with [other events], but it’s not just a party, it’s a celebration.
“About 50 per cent of [the photos] are generational pictures [where] they’re celebrating with their dad or they’re excited because they’ve brought their mom,” noted Macnab.
“A lot of them are ‘this is the first game’ or ‘this is the last game.’ It’s somewhere where they can all go and enjoy it together as a family.
“I think that I was more blown away by that than anything else,” she added.
During the process so far, Macnab said, it is these photos and stories that have reinforced in her mind the significance of the community-oriented project.
“The stories are so inspiring and made me realize how important this is and the important memories people have had,” said Macnab, adding, “It made me more excited and inspired and more responsible doing a really good job honouring the city, the stadium and the people.
“I made a photo book with their captions added to it because it means so much to me. Their participation is really important in this.”
Macnab also added that she’s appreciated the participatory aspect, noting that, “as an artist, you work alone, so having the community involvement has been really special.”
With this project, the responsibility to represent the fans has been regularly on Macnab’s mind, but she’s up to the challenge and has immersed herself in Roughrider culture and the community. Beyond just including the portraits of fans, Macnab has used their stories as inspiration.
“I didn’t expect [the stories] to be so heartwarming, and they really are. It’s the best day of their lives, the most fun they’ve had, and for generations they’ve been going. I’m thrilled with the participation of the community,” she said.
The fans’ participation has also informed the intention behind her work.
Said Macnab, “[the intention] is always important to me when I’m working. I look at my intention and I’m pleased and I think people will be satisfied.”
With the portraits of fan photos making up the mural’s “frame.” the main image was posed for, in order to represent and invoke the spirit of its surrounding images, which brought a new set of challenges for Macnab while finalizing the image in Photoshop.
“I got groups of people together and they posed for me celebrating and I took all those images and cut them up to suit the mural and the size,” said Macnab. “There’s about 30 parts of people” that make up the main image.
The final mural will be eight feet by 12 feet and somewhere between 80 to 100 pieces. While Macnab has experience with pieces on this scale, this project has still proven to be demanding.
“It has been such a big challenge, but I know this will make my art practice stronger. Because of the size that it is and all of the factors, it’s got lots of moving pieces that I’ve had to figure out. The planning process — every part of the project — is important.”
Still, Macnab remains positive and so far, the challenges have only proven to her what she’s capable of, including planning the arrangement on a small scale and translating the figures back into its final size. It hasn’t been easy, and “as an artist, it doesn’t always work out exactly as how you think it’s going to.”
For Macnab, though, that’s been a positive experience.
“The commitment and the focus, as a painter, makes you stronger. In my experience, with this project, it turns out better than you could imagine.”
“I think [the fans] will be able to relate to it,” Macnab said.
The process has been a collaborative one, between Macnab and the fans and with the City of Regina, too.
“You hope that whenever you’re doing a commission work that people allow you to be the artist you are,” said Macnab, adding, “and people have expectations. To give you the leeway to do a good job and your best but be you, as an artist, has been really nice.
“I think it was important to show that the people who’ve supported Mosaic Stadium are important to them. They’ve been absolutely terrific supporting me, supporting the project.”
The completion date for the new Mosaic Stadium is set for this summer and Macnab said she hopes to complete the mural by spring. With her work soon to be seen by crowds of people, Macnab hopes the recognition will lead to other opportunities, not just for her, but for the Saskatchewan arts community.
“I’ve been an artist in Saskatchewan for 32 years and I think it’s a tough go, when you live in a rural place, to get your work out there,” said Macnab. “I’m really hoping it becomes accessible. For other businesses and people to go “this is something we should be doing” and also to inspire more people to put up more artwork and involve more people in it.”
For her part, Macnab has involved as many people as possible in art, through workshops held in her home studio and ArtSmart, which provides grants to teach students.
“I know Saskculture and the Saskatchewan Arts Board and Creative Saskatchewan are constantly trying to take the arts to the rural communities to give people the opportunity to be creative,” noted Macnab.
While people often pronounce themselves as having no artistic talent, to Macnab, it’s not about skill, but rather, finding your own voice.
“Art comes in so many forms,” she said. “It’s about [finding] what form they want to work in.”
Involving the community and commissioning artists is an important step in making art accessible in order to show “you can develop” the art community “and inspire people.”
Overall, Macnab wants this project to inspire others.
“This particular thing — to involve an artist and community — do it and see what happens.”