Whitehorse Elementary School Celebrates 40 Years of French Immersion with 20ft Mural

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École Whitehorse Elementary School is celebrating four decades of its French immersion program with a new art project.

The mural, which is 20 feet high and 16 feet wide, was installed Friday on the front wall of the school facing 4th Avenue.

The mural was installed at Whitehorse Elementary School on Friday, August 19 on the front wall of the school facing 4th Avenue. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

Nathalie Parenteau, an artist from the Yukon and the North, is the painter behind the mural. She says she consulted with 275 elementary students to illustrate what it means to be part of the school’s French immersion program.

“The design drew a lot of inspiration from what kids told me and showed me,” she said.

The artists said the design and brainstorming workshops lasted over a month.

“When I ask them what is one of the French things they like to do, they all mention [a sugar shack]”said Parenteau.

That’s why she included a snowman wearing a red French traveler’s cap in the lower left corner of the mural.

The mural also depicts the flag of the Association franco-yukonnaise which has mountains and gold bars, a wolf and a raven to include Yukon First Nations, and three people of different ethnicities, sizes and identities. different so that “everyone can recognize themselves”, explained Parenteau.

“I’ve also used books turning into birds. So it’s like from your experiences here, the world is yours. That’s really how I want people to feel when they see it,” she said.

The colors of the mural also match the recently painted red and yellow building.

Although there are plans to move the school in future years, Parenteau said this should not affect the mural as the individual panels can be dismantled and transported.

Nathalie Parenteau is an artist from the Yukon and the North. She says she consulted 275 elementary school students for the design of the new mural. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)

“It means a lot to me”

Parenteau, a Montreal-born artist, said she was thrilled with the opportunity, especially since she didn’t have to apply for the commission.

“It means a lot to me as an artist. I think people respect my work at this point in my career and in my life,” she said.

Parenteau also painted other murals around Whitehorse, including Rhythms of a Northern Town, installed outside Takhini Arena.

“You come here over time and it’s an honor,” she said.

For her recent mural, Parenteau said she spent six hours a day for two months painting the large art project.

“I always do the smallest paint, then I roll up my sleeves and open the cans of paint,” she said.

The official unveiling at Whitehorse Elementary School will take place in the coming days.

Nathalie Parentea, second from the right, accompanied by her installation team. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC)
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