Research Station Clydesdales to parade down alleyway

Lacombe County-based artist John Ellenberger shaves off the side of a panel of the new mural that will replace the Nanton Street mural on the north side of the YU-Turn Centre in Lacombe on the afternoon of Sept. 6, 2018. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The alleyway between 50 St. and 49 St. will no longer features the old, dusty landscape of Nanton Street in years long past, but a parade of Clydesdale horses.

The beginnings of a new mural now graces the north side of the YU-Turn Centre, replacing the old mural that was covered up during the construction of what is now Main Street Medical Services and Fisher’s Pharmasave.

Lacombe County-based artist John Ellenberger of Little John’s Airbrush Art, who previously worked on Phase II of the historical murals in the parking lot behind BMO and the mural at the spray park, was commissioned by the City of Lacombe and Encore Art Committee for the piece, and began the installation process Thursday.

“The building went up and covered half the mural, so they wanted something nice and fresh and new to replace it. We found some pictures in the archives and we came across this picture of a horse parade and it was the best picture we saw all day,” he said.

“It’s part of the history here, and that’s what the murals are all about. Horse are a very big part of the history here.”

The Clydesdale horses, in fact, were at one point the go-to breed of draft horses for fieldwork at the Lacombe Research Station. They were shown off during parades to area farmers who had the opportunity to pasture mares and have them bred at the station.

At present, they’re considered to be a vulnerable breed, as their population declined during the First World War and the conscription of thousands of horses for the war effort. As of 2010, there were only an estimated 5,000 worldwide, and 4,000 in North America.

Now, they’ll be preserved, parading down the back alley for many years to come.

Ellenberger was first commissioned to do the piece a year ago, but was set back by a leg injury shortly after, which delayed the project. So far, he’s put about three months of work into the mural, with the rest to be completed within the next few weeks.

Unlike the previous mural, the new one isn’t painted directly on the building, but on aluminum panels allowing it to be moved in the future should further construction and development downtown necessitate it.

The materials used also make it weather and graffiti resistant, especially the industrial matte clear coat on top, which is normally used on heavy-duty equipment.

“It’s solid. It’s very hard to scratch and so it’s good for graffiti protection because you can just take lacquer thinner and wash it off. Not much will stick to it,” said Ellenberger.

Future pieces are definitely in the works for the City of Lacombe, including a recreation of the Nanton Street mural that will be hidden behind the new Clydesdale one, as well as the Canada 150 Mural Mosaic to be painted by members of the public during the Lacombe Culture and Harvest Festival later this month.