Okotoks has a new outdoor mural.

Covering the entire east wall of the Elks Hall on Elizabeth Street, it’s pretty hard to miss.

The Okotoks & District Chamber of Commerce commissioned the piece, putting out a request for proposals for multiple mural pieces in town.

For this one, they selected Calgary-based artist Sarah Slaughter, though it took over a year to pin down a location.

The mural features familiar Canadian iconography like wildlife and poppies and a backdrop of geometric trees, mountains, valleys, and streams all rendered in a vibrant palette.

Some elements were requested by the Elks themselves.

“Their only request were respect for the Legion, so poppies went in, and then of course, it’s the Elks, and they wanted an elk,” says Slaughter.

The rest was up to her.

“I wanted to match the colour to pair it in with the architectural style of the building itself, the woodwork on it, and then just bring something really colourful and engaging to the downtown space.”

The entire mural was painted by Slaughter herself, with help from a hydraulic lift and a parasol for the unrelenting sun.

This wasn’t Slaughter’s first mural, but it did present a challenge in that her stucco canvas wasn’t very accommodating to her preferred style of painting.

“There’s nothing I hate more than stucco. Nothing… It’s about half spray and half paint with colours I loved so much and couldn’t give up.”

She finished the original piece in three days, and then the Elks made another request.

“I finished it up a lot quicker than I had expected, and the board came out, the whole board from the Elks. They said ‘Sarah, we’ve got to talk to you,’ and I was like ‘Oh no, they don’t like the colour of pink that I’ve involved in this squirrel, what am I going to do?’ They said, ‘Well we really like this, can you do the other half?’ I said ‘Okay, why not? I’ve got another three days.’”

She says the reception from passersby made the extra three days in the summer heat much easier.

“I have never received so many kind compliments. Just people rolling down their windows saying, ‘great work, we love it.’ Kids came by and the teacher and caregivers chatted with them, they named all the animals. People brought me snacks… Everybody’s just so bloody friendly, I love it.”

The mural is technically the second piece of art to grace the wall, the other being a stencil of the comic character Tin Tin and his dog Snowy.

Slaughter quickly learned of the art piece’s significance to many residents.

“A couple of gals stopped by yesterday, they must’ve been in their early twenties. They said, ‘Thank you oh so much for not painting over Tin Tin.’ I looked at them like ‘You’re too young to know who Tin Tin is!’ She said ‘No, I’ve been born and raised, and Tin Tin has been here my whole life.’ There was a lot of online banter about the respect for the Tin Tin.”

She ended up painting a border around the stencil, preserving the longstanding stencil.

The mural is the latest in the Okotoks Chamber’s More Okotoks campaign.

Executive Director Dawn LeMaistre says the goal of More Okotoks is to showcase the town through a wide array of creative projects.

“We received grant funding through the Alberta Chambers of Commerce via the federal government for a shop local program. We took some steps to make some creative decisions for the area of ‘shop local,’ not just ‘Come shop, come to Okotoks, do this,’ we wanted to create some experimental marketing elements that would assist in drawing people to our cool little town.”

The campaign started with the large blue Okotoks letters that can currently be seen on McRae Street.

Since then, they’ve produced 13 promotional videos that were released online and played at the Seton and Shawnessy movie theatres. This mural phase of the project includes Slaughter’s new mural and a wrap on a sea can at Bill Robertson Park, designed by Julie Boake.

LeMaistre is thrilled with the new mural and is hoping to facilitate some similar projects elsewhere in town.

“We’ve been in discussion with the arts council, I know there's some project funding through them as well. The ultimate goal is to potentially create a bit of a mural walk in town. We’ve got some other great pieces like the one that was done for the Summer Games recently as well as the one in the library for the kids centre that Aecon sponsored.”

More of Sarah Slaughter’s art can be seen on her Instagram page.