The Popsilos project on St. Guillaume Rd. near Embrun officially inaugurated the Popsilos program. Shown here from left are: Jennifer Larocque who started the project in Prescott-Russell, farm owner Jeannette Mongeon, Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux, and farm owners Hector Dignard and Michel Dignard, on Wed., June 28. Vetter photo
by Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
AgriNews Staff Writer
EMBRUN – On June 30, the Popsilos in the United Counties of Prescott-Russell officially opened to the public. Jennifer Larocque, Casselman native and now of Ottawa, is the brains behind the operation.
What started as an idea in the fall of 2015 grew and in the spring of 2016, Larocque met with Regional partners to further the idea. The partners included L’Union des cultivateurs Franco-Ontarian, Prescott-Russell Arts Council (artist selection committee), Tourism Prescott-Russell, and UCPR.
The regional partners and Larocque enlisted the help of three local artists to give workshops and discuss the themes with the chosen urban artists for the project. Montreal production company, Ashop, partnered with Larocque to find the artists and co-produce the murals. Their experience with large scale products was a valuable asset, explained Larocque. Popsilos.ca explains that Ashop’s experience ranges from, “over 100,000 square feet of walls [painted], in six different countries worldwide since 2009.” This experience was a must for such a time-sensitive project. The art began on May 8 and the inauguration was on June 28.
“It’s a great way to highlight a key industry in the region and bring together rural and urban communities,” explained Larocque. She found the selected silos through applications and even knocking on doors. The idea is to make the silos a destination for the influx of tourists expected in Ottawa and Montreal on Canada Day who wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours. Larocque continued that she hopes tourists will experience a feeling of wonder and awe at the massive artworks shooting up around farmlands and create an interesting juxtaposition.
Every mural has a nod to the farm where it is placed and uses one of the Canada 150 official themes as inspiration. The one at Michel Dignard and Jeannette Mongeon Farm, follows the “Unity for all People” theme and incorporates cattails which were planted on the farm for water purification.
Lacey Jane Wilburn and Layla Folkmann were the artists behind the Embrun silo. The duo met in 2007 and began collaborating for public art in 2010. They found the project through social media and jumped at the chance. “We’ve never done something so cool,” said the duo. The pair works with exterior paint primer for the larger background colours and then high-grade acrylics for the more detailed work. While they had experience doing murals on more three-dimensional surfaces, the full cylinder experience was new.
Wilburn and Folkmann spoke with Algonquin community members to get inspiration for the theme. The young girl and eagle pictured on the design represent hope and unity for the future.
The duo agreed it was wonderful to work in a rural setting, “the region is beautiful and the experience was brand new.” They added that the landscape of the farm lands add an extra beauty to the art which is more often found in busy city streets. “The view from the lifts was amazing,” they said.
Larocque hopes to add more silos to the project in the coming years and has her eyes and ears open for farms looking to get involved. With Prescott-Russell so well situated between the tourist destinations of Montreal and Ottawa, Larocque would like to see the silos become a destination themselves as a gateway to exploring rural Ontario.
There are a total of five silos to visit. Two in Vankleek Hill, one in Embrun, one in Casselman and one in St. Albert. Maps and information on locations and artists can be found on the website, www.popsilos.ca. The route was scheduled to be open for visitors on June 30.