Founder of Squamish, B.C., art gallery and eagle count honoured in mural project

·2 min read
The mural in honour of Thor Froslev is located on Cleveland Avenue in downtown Squamish, B.C. (Kevin Ledo - image credit)
The mural in honour of Thor Froslev is located on Cleveland Avenue in downtown Squamish, B.C. (Kevin Ledo - image credit)

A founder of the Brackendale Art Gallery and its annual eagle festival and count is being honoured with a mural in downtown Squamish, B.C.

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

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

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

Hosting eagle count festival at art gallery

Froslev, now 89, was an upholsterer and logger when he came to Canada from Denmark in the mid-1950s. He worked different jobs across B.C. but mostly in Vancouver — as an elevator operator, landscaper, bricklayer's helper, shoe factory and sawmill worker.

Froslev moved to Squamish in the 1960s and, after conversations with local artists, he developed an idea to build a gallery showcasing B.C. artists in the Brackendale neighbourhood. The gallery opened in 1973.

"It's a fantastic place between Vancouver and Whistler," he said about Brackendale in the 2018 documentary Brackendale: An Art Gallery in the Woods.

Submitted by Dorte Forslev
Submitted by Dorte Forslev

In 2016, Froslev received a community award from the B.C. Achievement Foundation recognizing his effort to establish the gallery and the annual Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival and Count, which began in 1986.

After years of counting the birds and advocacy by Froslev and local activists, the B.C. government acknowledged Squamish as a significant wintering area for bald eagles by establishing the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park in 1999.

The gallery, which says Brackendale is the "world eagle capital," claims a world-record 3,769 bald eagles were counted in 1994.

The accompanying festival, held annually at the gallery for most of January, includes concerts and photo exhibitions. It was put on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the eagle count has continued.

'Perfect person' to paint

Ledo, who is well known for his murals of prominent Canadians like David Suzuki, Leonard Cohen and Janine Sutto, says he took nine days to paint Froslev based on a photo.

He says while he didn't know Froslev beforehand, he found him a fascinating character after reading articles about him.

Patricia Heintzman
Patricia Heintzman

"I just knew right away that he'd be a perfect person for this type of project — I always like to paint somebody that is really meaningful to the community," Ledo told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's On The Coast.

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

"I was so amazed they were able to do that — I was proud," Froslev said.

Dorte Froslev
Dorte Froslev
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