Artist Luke Ramsey was in Oak Bay on Wednesday to present the finished Parade of Play mural that overlooks the Jack Wallace Memorial Track behind Oak Bay High.
With the parade of zany characters zippin’, boppin’, honkin’ and rockin’ their way along the track, it’s already hard to imagine how track and soccer field users went half a century without a mural on the previously the drab looking Oak Bay public works building.
“Seeing so many people use this track, so many people training, families, toddlers cycling on it, people throwing the javelin, there’s so much activity that I wanted to reflect in the piece, to get that movement,” Ramsey said.
Among the characters is a lot of detail.
“You can enjoy it from afar, and if you use the track, each time you pass you can enjoy different details,” Ramsey said.
There is a trombone and also a French horn, an homage to Ramsey’s time in high school band. There’s also a lot of animals and elements of nature, such as the oak leaf.
“I tried to incorporate local wildlife, a deer, a squirrel [although people have been calling it a raccoon, which is fine], an orca in a wheelchair, because when I first came here there was a guy doing laps in a wheelchair,” Ramsey said.
A young girl visited Ramsey multiple times asking for a cat. He obliged.
Hidden playfully in the mural is the word Oak Bay.
The concept for the mural really started with the momentum of the Oak Bay marching band that Ramsey witnessed on the track in early September. The project took years to put together and it’s more than worth it, said Oak Bay Arts Laureate Barbara Adams, who is a big fan.
Grand opening of Greater Victoria’s biggest mural, the Oak Bay public works mural with artist Luke Ramsey. pic.twitter.com/dl5wgDROWE
— Oak Bay News (@OakBayNews) October 23, 2019
“It’s wonderful, we are so happy,” Adams said.
Mayor Kevin Murdoch joined Adams and a group of Oak Bay staff, councillors and community members at the wall’s official grand opening on Wednesday.
“It might be the biggest mural in Greater Victoria, I can’t think of what would be bigger,” Murdoch said.
Ramsey travelled in for the day from his new home in Powell River.
The off and on Victoria resident has lived her for several stops in his life, including time as a Claremont secondary student and most recently, as Victoria artist in residence.
The track was originally built as training grounds for the 1994 Commonwealth Games, and has been a significant community asset ever since. It’s provided training space for Oak Bay High’s cross country and track and field runners, and community and sport groups including Special Olympics, Victoria Athletics Track and Field Club, Oak Bay Recreation after school and sport programs, and mental wellness programs.
Jack Wallace was principal of Oak Bay Secondary from 1963 to 1970. Wallace was a tremendous supporter of all student activities with a focus on athletics. Wallace attended most school team games and travelled with the teams to exhibition and championship tournaments.
– With files from the great Keri Coles