Like many places on Vancouver Island, Chemainus is a town in transition as older buildings are being demolished to make way for stronger and more modern structures. But in a place renowned for its more than 50 murals, this undertaking takes on an entirely new dimension.
Recently, the third mural ever to grace the walls of Chemainus found its fate in flux. Mural #3: Steam Train on Bridge over Chemainus River, painted in 1982 by Paul Marcona, was a staple of the downtown core. But when its original location faced demolition, Mural #3 was forced to find a new home.
Tom Andrews is the President of the Chemainus Festival of Murals Society, which manages and develops the mural project. “Mural #3 was painted the same year the mural project started,” he explains. “The mill shut down that year, so the town was going through a pretty bad economic downturn.”
Funding from the province relieved some of that burden, giving Chemainus a budget to spruce up their downtown core. “At the same time,” says Andrews, “the town came up with the idea of painting these murals on buildings and use that as an economic stimulant for tourism.”
The project was more than successful, as anyone walking through downtown Chemainus can see. The population of 4,000 benefits from about 60,000 tourists a year, 90 per cent who come just see the murals.
But what did this all mean for Mural #3?
Despite the problem that preserving Mural #3 presented, the dilemma itself actually reflected the success of the revitalization of Chemainus. It’s original home was on the outside wall of the town’s Fire Hall/Visitors Centre, which was now being torn down to make way for a new library.
“The problem was that we couldn’t keep the mural in its original form, because it was painted flat onto brick and mortar,” recalls Andrews. “We needed help to move it.”
A new home had been selected, the TELUS building on Willow Street. But, as Andrews explains, “it was necessary to get the approval of the company before anything else.”
When the Chemainus Festival of Murals reached out to TELUS, they were surprised with the response. Not only did the company approve the installation of the mural, but they offered the funding to support its move from one location to the other too.
With this problem overcome, the next challenge of migrating Mural #3 came in the form of finding a new way to present this original mural.
“We kept it, but it’s in a totally new form,” laughs Andrews. “We took several high resolution photos, very detailed photos, and put these on photographic film. Then, we printed that on metal sheets and installed these on the building. It’s quite vibrant and colourful – it’s almost better than its original form. So, in short, we revitalized that mural into an even more exciting form.”
For more a more in-depth look at the Chemainus murals, visit muraltown.com.
TELUS is proud to support the Chemainus Festival of Murals Society.