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WELLAND'S HISTORIC MURALS: The Birth of an Idea
In 1986, the people of Welland embarked on a bold, imaginative and ambitious venture designed to beautify the city; develop a new sense of community pride; increase tourism and stimulate the local economy.

At the time, Welland was experiencing deep economic trouble. With unemployment and inflation rising, it was vital that Welland find new sectors of economic growth. In the fall of 1983, a group of concerned Welland residents formed the "Promote Welland Task Force," a non-profit organization whose mandate was to bolster the community. After several months of meetings and studies, the group finally decided that the key to Welland's prosperity lay in tourism development. The question was "How to attract visitors?"

The Answer was discovered by looking westward to Chemainus, British Columbia on beautiful Vancouver Island. In the early 80's, Chemainus was experiencing serious economic difficulties. In an effort to create a tourism focus to replace the town's declining forest products base, one of the local residents suggested creating large murals to illustrate the town's logging history. The prospect was that this project would become a unique attraction to boost Chemainus' stagnating economy. So successful was the plan that the town became a major tourist  destination with hundreds of thousands of visitors annually injecting millions of dollars into the local economy.

In 1986, Mike Allen (a local businessman and the owner of the Seaway Mall) visited Chemainus, B.C. He was so impressed with the attractive revitalization and tourism development of the city that he commissioned Welland's first mural. Naturally enough, it was painted on the Seaway Mall. The Promote Welland Task Force thus created the Festival of the Arts and the community captured the mural spirit.

In order to continue the murals project, a team of artists was invited to submit proposals for Welland's murals. The Festival of the Arts used three criteria for the selection: historical accuracy, architectural suitability and, above all, artistic merit. The artists were required to complete a mini-mural, or maquette on a predetermined historical theme. Each artist was sent a detailed research package containing photographs and information on the theme. The artists were permitted to enter two mini murals. The panel adjudicated the resulting works and these became the basis for the works gracing Welland today.

The Virtual Tour of Welland's Giant Murals includes background information on the individual murals, artist interpretations, guide notes and artist biographies in addition to photos of each of the murals themselves. The virtual tour is not intended to replace a physical tour of these incredible works, but it is instead intended to be an opportunity to take a sneak peak of Welland's Giant Outdoor Art Gallery.

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The Welland Murals site is supported by the Black Lantern Experience.