Sarjeant Company brings beauty to Simcoe County jobsites

The Sarjeant Company partners with local artists to transform its concrete truck fleet

While The Sarjeant Company has helped construct Simcoe County for nearly 130 years, the company is now helping to build its local arts community.

For the last eight years, the Barrie, Ontario-based concrete supply company has partnered with the MacLaren Art Centre for The Sarjeant Company Design Project. Through the program, high school art students in the Muskoka and Simcoe regions are invited to create a revolving image to decorate the drum of the company’s concrete trucks.

Mike MacMillan, manager of IT and development at Sarjeant, explained the project helps bring art into an unusual venue.

“Jobsites are not generally a place where you would see artwork. These trucks really do add quite a bit of beauty,” MacMillan said.

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Each year, new artwork is selected from students at three high schools for three of the company’s trucks.

So far, more than 600 artists have entered their work into the competition, with the work of 31 students being featured on Sarjeant’s fleet of concrete trucks.

“There’s a certain sense of pride our drivers have, because these machines look great, they’re very impressive,” MacMillan said, who is also a board member for the art centre.

“This has really become a part of our brand, and our customers comment on the different trucks and the new designs.”

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Christina Mancuso, education officer at the MacLaren Art Centre, explained the partnership with Sarjeant is a perfect fit for the centre’s mandate to “bring people to art and art to people.”

“It’s art in unexpected places. Art doesn’t have to be on the wall of a gallery and stay there, it goes out into the world,” she said.

The project is the brainchild of Scott Elliott, CEO of The Sarjeant Company.

At first, Elliott tried to recruit artists to paint on the actual drums.

“Due to how tall the trucks are, and a number of health and safety problems with enclosed spaces, it wasn’t really practical,” MacMillan said.

However, around 2010, wrap technology began to gain popularity, and the cost of wrapping a vehicle with printed vinyl began to drop, created a viable avenue to decorate the trucks.

Alongside creating a method to display art on the truck drums, the vinyl wrapping also helps protect the equipment.

We’ve noticed it keeps the rust down on some of the drums,” MacMillan said. “Some of the wraps from 2011 are still on the trucks. They hold up very well.”

Each year, MacLaren recruits a professional artist from the region to assist the students in creating a design that is suitable for a concrete truck drum. The students learn how to create a design that will work on a rotating drum.

“The idea for the project is to create a design that is very vibrant, very graphic in that sense where you can see it from afar,” Mancuso said.

“The design is cyclical, so it has no beginning or end.”

When the artwork is complete, a jury comprised of staff from the art centre and Sarjeant select the winning designs for the year. The artwork entered into the competition is displayed at the art centre and the finalists are invited to the gallery’s opening night.

“The exposure is huge for the artist and the school. It’s a win-win for all parties involved,” Mancuso said.

“And it’s a project that continues to live on. You see them throughout the community.”

When the students arrive, the trucks, decorated with the winning work, are parked in front of the centre.

“Then the students see their truck. They get super excited. They’re thrilled. The excitement level in the building is electric,” Mancuso said.

As of this year, Sarjeant has worked with every public and catholic high school in the region.  As well, the company has announced the project has been extended indefinitely.

While the program helps Sarjeant to further extend its roots into the community, it’s also a sense of pride within its staff.

“Part of it is; who has art? You wouldn’t think of a truck driver. This is something they get to have that’s aesthetically pleasing and they get to be proud of it,” MacMillan said.

“Each trucker has a story when they’re visiting a site. They’re proud of their trucks and the students that produced the work.”