It's known as
"The Little Town That Did."
Mural of Billy Thomas, the first European born in the Cowichan
that name by turning a dying community into one of the biggest outdoor
art galleries in the world.
Every year 400,000
tourists turn off the highway that runs up the eastern shore of
Vancouver Island to marvel at the 33 works of art that cover the
downtown buildings. But they come for more than that. They
come to see what can happen when one man has a vision so strong
that nothing can stop him.
About 25 years
ago, when the local sawmill had closed down one more time, the community
decided to take advantage of a provincial grant to revitalize the
Maybe they could attract a couple of dozen tourists to keep things
going - a little bit of fresh paint, some new sidewalks, haul away
the old garbage - that should about do it.
had a different idea. On a trip to Romania he had been impressed
by the beautiful wall murals he'd seen in towns and villages across
the countryside. Why not try it in Chemainus?
There was more
than one businessman on the revitalization committee who thought
Schutz was quite mad. But Schutz was adamant. He steamrollered his
way past all opposition and in 1982 the citizens of Chemainus whitewashed
the sides of five downtown buildings in preparation for their first
as far away as Scotland came to work on the largest canvasses they'd
job was advertising. He was a force that couldn't be stopped. He
talked to newspapers, television, radio, tourist offices
gave tours, he sent photographs - he wined and dined and schmoozed.
painted more murals, shop owners painted and gingerbreaded their
stores, businesses began investing in the little town and Chemainus
started bringing home awards.
In 1992, The
Chemainus Theatre went up, a cream-and pink Victorian building whose
dinner theatre productions gave tourists one more reason to turn
off the highway.
doesn't mind very much when the sawmill shuts down. On Willow Street
and in the old town, antique shops do a roaring trade - so do the
ice cream parlours, chocolate shops, art galleries and gift stores
with quaint names like Toad Hall Emporium.
Town That Did" is still doing it. The community's latest project
is a Marina that will take advantage of one of the prettiest waterfronts
on Vancouver Island
off as one man's dream but it's a success story that was created
by the faith and work of a whole community.
is a small town with small town thinking and behaviour which is
totally different from large cities. Here, everybody knows everybody.
The people are very friendly.
visitors who come are just stunned by all the pictures and by the
small-town friendliness. That's what's special about this town.
see Chemainus, we usually tell them to follow the yellow steps -
not the yellow brick road, the yellow footsteps - they'll take you
Chemainus resident and owner of The Simply Super Coffee Bar.