Founder of Squamish, BC Art Gallery and Eagle Earl Honored in Mural Project

A founder of the Brackendale Art Gallery and its annual Eagle Festival and Count is honored with a mural in downtown Squamish, BC

On July 4th, renowned Montreal muralist Kevin Ledo completed his work dedicated to Thor Froslev, who founded the gallery almost 50 years ago.

The mural, which will be painted on a vacant building on Cleveland Avenue and will remain there for at least 10 years, is part of an annual mural walking event organized by the Downtown Squamish Business Improvement Association.

Event curator Alex Fowkes says Froslev was chosen as the subject of the mural because of his immense contribution to the local community.

Eagle Count Festival at the Art Gallery

Froslev, now 89, was an upholsterer and lumberjack when he came to Canada from Denmark in the mid-1950s. He worked a variety of jobs in BC, but mostly in Vancouver – as an elevator driver, landscaper, bricklayer’s hand, shoe factory and lumber mill worker.

Froslev moved to Squamish in the 1960s and after discussions with local artists, developed the idea of ​​establishing a gallery in the Brackendale area to showcase BC artists. The gallery opened in 1973.

“It’s an amazing place between Vancouver and Whistler,” he said in the 2018 documentary about Brackendale Brackendale: An Art Gallery in the Woods.

Thor Froslev at the Brackendale Art Gallery which opened in Squamish in 1973. (Submitted by Dorte Forslev)

In 2016, Froslev received a Community Award from the BC Achievement Foundation in recognition of his efforts to establish the gallery and the annual Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival and Count, which began in 1986.

After years of bird counting and advocacy from Froslev and local activists, the BC government recognized Squamish as a significant wintering area for bald eagles by establishing Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park in 1999.

The gallery that says Brackendale is the “Eagle Capital of the World” claims that in 1994 a world record 3,769 bald eagles were counted.

The accompanying festival, which takes place annually in the gallery for most of January, includes concerts and photo exhibitions. It was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the eagle count continued.

‘Perfect Person’ to paint

Ledo, known for his murals of prominent Canadians such as David Suzuki, Leonard Cohen and Janine Sutto, says it took him nine days to paint Froslev from a photograph.

He says that although he didn’t know Froslev beforehand, after reading articles about him he found him a fascinating character.

A painter with a wide-brimmed hat stands on a painter's stage.  On the wall in front of him are the beginnings of a painting depicting a man with glasses.
Kevin Ledo says it took nine days to complete the mural. (Patricia Heintzmann)

“I just knew right away that he would be the perfect person for this type of project — I always like to paint someone who is really meaningful to the community,” Ledo told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC On the coast.

Froslev, who had recently spent more than a month in hospital, visited the mural on his way home on July 6. He says Ledo did a good job portraying him.

“I was so amazed they could do that – I was proud,” Froslev said.

From left: Kevin Ledo, Thor Froslev and Alex Fowkes, curator of the wall walk in downtown Squamish. Froslev says he’s proud of Ledo’s portrayal of him. (Dorte Fröslev)

On the coast8:14Squam icon Thor Froslev is immortalized in a mural

We hear from Thor Froslev, his wife Dorte Froslev and artist Kevin Ledo, who created a mural for Thor in Squamish.

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