The late, great Karl Schutz embodied what became affectionately known as The Little Town That Did.
He tirelessly rallied others, such as then-mayor Graham Bruce, to use arts tourism — namely giant outdoor murals depicting Chemainus’ colourful history — to rejuvenate the mill town’s wilting economy.
It worked in spades. Town business folks and civic leaders climbed onboard his shared vision.
Karl was a true visionary. His prescient ideas helped spawned a mural movement across the continent and beyond, attracting tourists and stimulating local interest in the town’s past.
He also created jobs for artists. They flocked to Chemainus to complete imposing, commissioned murals, and later sculpture, as magnets of interest in The Little Town That Did’s unique characters and events.
Shops and other local businesses eagerly realized spin-off profits from urban renewal and boosted visitor traffic.
Karl’s easy-going chuckle was heard at many events promoting Mural Town and its potential.
His coffee-table book chronicles Chemainus’ murals in numeric order for easy viewing.
The town’s renaissance naturally became a lifestyle for idea-man Schutz who helped father the Arts & Culture Highway concept touted on his yellow VW Beetle.
He also designed Chemainus’ Pacific Rim Artisans’ Village site but that project sadly remained an unrealized dream.
While some may not have agreed with everything Karl did and planned, there’s no denying he walked his talk, creating an arts-and-tourism legacy that lives on in the town’s many public artworks — and in its ever-popular Chemainus Theatre.
Appropriately, his portrait is seen in a mural adorning a building beside the theatre.
As arts reporter for the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial, it was a pleasure to cover new and exciting projects Karl’s active mind concocted, and generally coaxed into reality.
Karl Schutz was indeed a true original, and an inspiration to those who dare to dream big.