A row of old street trees and a small wooden fence are all that remain of South Carvolth Elementary.
The rural Langley school, once located along 200 Street near 8 Avenue, was recently deconstructed by Metro Vancouver Parks to return the lot back to Campbell Valley Regional Park.
But along with the 1960s piping and wiring and cinder blocks that were so carefully removed, crews also took apart the community mural that artist Toni Williams desperately tried to save.
Painted on the exterior wall of the gymnasium 16 years ago by Williams and fellow artist Judy Jordison, when word of its possible destruction got out last winter, the artists asked the community for help.
So what became of the iconic rural art scene?
“They gave me a PDF [picture] of it,” Williams said.
Although Williams made several suggestions to Metro Vancouver on ways her artwork could be preserved, whether on that plot of land or another, each was deemed too expensive or not feasible, she said.
Williams calls the entire process “very frustrating,” and despite an outcry of local support, believes “the community didn’t feel they had anything left.”
“I tried not to think about it after a while,” she said.
Originally taking three weeks to paint, Williams and Jordison gifted the $5,000 art piece to the school. The mural captured a distinct moment in time, with every image — from the horses grazing in the centre, to the little girl reading in the bottom righthand corner — based on the people and activities of the area.
Comments on a Langley Times story published in January show that many in the community shared Williams’ sentiments.
“This is sad. I was on the PAC the year they designed this mural as my son was a student. A lot of work went into it. Not only the painting part, but the designing part,” wrote Kelly Brook Allen.
“A group of us spent months driving around looking at other murals to help with the perfect design that fit the area of the school. Very sad …”
“What an incredibly sad day for this community and for us, the alumni of this wonderful school,” wrote Danielle Hagen, who grew up on a farm on 4 Avenue and 204 Street and attended the school.
“That is beautiful! Why can’t it be moved?” asked Diana Elisabeth Sarah Striker.
Before the wall was dismantled, Metro Vancouver did have high resolution photos taken, and they provided copies to both Williams and the Township of Langley, spokesperson Wendy DaDalt told the Times.
Sometime next year, Metro Vancouver also plans to install an interpretive sign in the area — which will now serve as a parking lot for the park — with a picture of the mural, and story behind its creation. In the meantime, the community will soon have a new Williams-Jordison piece of art, as the BC Farm Museum invited the two artists to be part of their mural series.
The project, featuring five murals both inside and outside the Fort Langley museum, will demonstrate how farming, pioneer life and agriculture have progressed in B.C. since the 1800s.
Williams and Jordison are currently sketching out the drawings, and will begin painting in the fall. The unveiling ceremony for the entire project is tentatively planned for the summer of 2017.