Inspired stories: Artist Michelle Loughery, 2005 Community Award alumna  

Photo: 2005 Community Award alumna, Michelle Loughery (photo credit: Chris Hsiung)

2024 marks the 21st anniversary of the BC Achievement Foundation and the Community Award program. 

What does that mean? It’s a testament to the best of BC – the program has told the inspired stories of over 680 British Columbians who have carved a path forward through their community achievement for others to emulate and in doing so, built stronger and more engaged communities. 

One such awardee is 2005 alumna, artist Michelle Loughery who designed and painted over twenty-five historical murals in downtown Vernon, a project which was an outstanding success as it celebrated the area’s heritage and culture and continues to be a major tourism draw. Michelle’s talent is unquestionable, but it was her creation of this art on the street that was so significant in her community. It mobilized citizens to work together with a sense of pride. Most importantly, Michelle involved 75 youth at risk in that project.  

Michelle is more than an artist, she’s a mentor to the community’s youth and a public relations ambassador for Vernon. She incorporates the strength of community to the art process bringing people together to create iconic images, telling stories through murals.  

Since receiving the Community Award, Michelle has continued to receive accolades for her iconic community art projects. Over her 30-plus-year career, Michelle has created numerous award-winning mural projects, and raised millions for communities through her innovative Wayfinder art project

Michelle created the Wayfinder Art Model of building infrastructure placemaking with public art and youth employment and training programming. This model has been emulated across the globe and has been cited as an innovation for rural communities that all communities should emulate. 

Michelle recently recorded a podcast episode about what has inspired her creativity. The following is taken from AR:T ROUTE Radio podcast – The Muralist Chapter One E042. 

“My passion and love for murals has deep roots. I come from a very, very creative immigrant family from all different parts of the world and it’s through those connections that I have been honoured with the dream life of being a muralist.” 

“My journey starts with a little girl with braids and knobby knees…in a little town, a coal mining town, so I truly am the coal miner’s daughter. I watched my parents live, struggle, love, laugh, and teach their children to use their hands, and to use their hands to build community.” 

As someone who identifies as neuro-divergent, Michelle recognizes that “Perhaps there were so many neurodivergent people that just felt the system wasn’t for them or they felt shame, and it didn’t work for them. The system works for many people – many people excel at school, but many people don’t. I was lucky enough to find a way to make a living through extraordinary life lessons and careers and opportunities.” 

“My projects were about bringing young people together and old people and exchanging skills. I may call it Wayfinder art – which is what it is – it’s finding your way through art. It was the energy and knowledge of those young people and the old people coming together in this orchestration of magic. I keep using the term magic because I think that’s what the world has lost in these last years. The magic has been dimmed; our imagination has been dimmed; our colouring box has all become these gray crayons but we are this massive 64 pack Crayola colouring box! All we have do is open the box.” 

“So, I’m going to start with the orange crayon. I painted my first picture with an orange crayon and then I continued on my bedroom walls, and continued on community walls, and I have been taking it to the wall for over 35 years, well over 60 years now, because I have been colouring on the walls since I was a child.” 

Nominations for the 2025 Community Award program are welcome throughout the year at

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.

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