A Community Inspired Project
“In addition to painting larger than life murals of country music artists, the project also focused on providing local youth with skills development and employment opportunities”
Nothing defines Merritt more than its country roots. Officially recognized as the ‘Country Music Capital of Canada’, Merritt BC Canada is home to the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, the Merritt Walk of Stars (over 70 handprints of famous country music stars – including Johnny Cash, Tim McGraw and the likes!), and to dozens of murals depicting country music’s greatest performers.
Merritt Walk Of Stars Society
In 2003 the Merritt Walk of Stars Society was established with the mandate to work with community members to increase tourism to the region through the promotion of country music. Beginning with the star handprints collected at the Merritt Mountain Music Festival (1993 – 2011), the Merritt Walk of Stars inspired by a similar project in Vernon, BC contracted mural artist Michelle Loughery, and started the Merritt Walk of Stars Youth Mural Project (2005-2011).
Local Youth Project
In addition to painting larger than life murals of country music artists, the project also focused on providing local youth with skills development and employment opportunities. The youth were an integral and inspiring part of the mural project. Not only did the youth participants assist with the painting of the murals, but they also worked on a variety of community-based projects.
Community members rallied around the project – providing donations, work experience opportunities for the youth, and fundraising initiatives to support the project. Local aboriginal communities, municipal, provincial and federal governments, businesses, schools, and a wide-range of not for profit groups all supported the youth and the project. The Merritt mural project is more than just a Merritt Walk of Stars project (now the Canadian Country Music Heritage Society) – the Merritt mural project was, and continues to be, a community-based project that everyone in the community can claim as their own.
Merritt’s Murals Moving Forward
Today the iconic murals also play an important part of the community’s focus on tourism and economic development by continuing to draw many visitors to Merritt’s downtown. A recent initiative undertaken by the Merritt and Nicola Valley Destination Society, eh Canada Travel and the Canadian Country Music Heritage Society is bringing the murals to life through a digital walk.
You can take a digitally enabled and live walking tour of the murals by visiting downtown Merritt or you can take a virtual tour of the murals by visiting experiencenicolavalley.com.
Amber Papou worked with the Walk of Stars Society (2003-2011) and is currently an advisor to the Canadian Country Music Heritage Society.
A Community Inspired Project – Merritt’s Murals
Amber has over 20 years’ experience in corporate and non-profit leadership, education/education technology, stakeholder engagement and government relations. In addition to leading multi-million dollar community infrastructure projects she has provided leadership services for large scale technology driven organizations in the education sector.