Founded as a logging town in 1858, the town is now famous for its 39 outdoor murals. This outdoor gallery has given birth to many businesses, including a theatre, antiques dealers, and eateries. The tourist industry stemming from the murals helped rejuvenate the town after its large sawmill closed in the early 1980s and was replaced by a smaller but far more efficient mill. A resident of Chemainus is known as a Chemainiac.
The name "Chemainus" comes from the native shaman and prophet "Tsa-meeun-is" (Broken Chest). Legend says that the man survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief. His people took his name to identify their community, Chemainus First Nation.
A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface. A particularly distinguishing characteristic of mural painting is that the architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture.
Some wall paintings are painted on large canvases, which are then attached to the wall (e.g., with marouflage). Whether these works can be accurately called "murals" is a subject of some controversy in the art world, but the technique has been in common use since the late 19th century.