This was the biggest project I have ever completed, it was enormous, challenging, fun and extremely rewarding.
In early April I was contacted by the owners of Luvly (the store I work at here in Lunenburg) Leslie and Brian, to see if I was interested in designing a mural for the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Leslie is the brains behind Lunenburg Community Network (LCN) which "develops and supports collaborative initiatives across sectors that contribute to community sustainability". Leslie and Hilda Russel, of the Fisheries Museum, had been discussing opening up the Lunenburg waterfront, where the museum is located.
The ultimate idea for this project was to open the waterfront to the public and make it an inviting and welcoming space for the community and visitors . The museum worked with Terry and TJ from Waterfront Development to draft some ideas; part of their final designs and decisions was to have a mural on the pavement that would outline the public space and draw people to the area. As the LCN does it gathered the organizations together to get the ball rolling for this project. The organizations involved were Board of Trade, Waterfront Development, the Town of Lunenburg, First Impressions, the Fisheries Museum of Atlantic and NSCAD Community Residency Program. After hearing about this project I was really excited to get started. I was excited because rarely, as an emerging artist, you given the space to do something as massive as this. The space for the mural is 61 metres in length and 9 metres in width, a total amount of 4000 square feet.
Following the preliminary meeting with Leslie and Brian, Leslie set up out first meeting with the Fisheries Museum staff to discuss what their ideas were for the mural and the space. Prior to this year the Fisheries wharf was fenced, this was one aspect that the new plan for the waterfront was going to address. The fence came down opening the waterfront up to the public in early June. This would provide a more open and inviting space for people to enjoy. The museum wanted to celebrate the opening of the wharf during the Be a Tourist in Your Own Town - a new event that offered discounts and special events to the people of Lunenburg just before the tourist season was in full swing. The idea was to get locals out in their own community and enjoy their town, with everything it has to offer. Be a Tourist in Your Own Town let you eat out at the best restaurants with a discount, go on a free walking tour to hear the history and stories of your town, kayaking tours were discounted, the Fisheries Museum opened their doors to the public free of charge that day and the list went on. You could experience all the tourist joys right at home. This weekend was also the unveiling of the murals design to the town of Lunenburg.
During the meetings with Fisheries staff it became clear that they wanted something interpretive, colourful and a design incorporating whales, specifically the blue whale. It was important for the staff to have something they could use while showcasing the museum and something that beautified the space.
At first the museum staff wanted me to incorporate all the whales found in the atlantic; fin whale, blue whale, humpback, orcas, right whale and sperm whales. At first the museum staff wanted me to include all whales in a colourful design. When I sat down and looked at the outline of the space I knew it was going to be impossible to fit all whales in this narrow space. If I were to add all the whales into the design the space would look cluttered and messy. So I focused my attention on one whale for the design. I also had to keep in mind that the museum staff would be maintaining the mural in the years to come, so the design had to be simple enough for someone to touch it up at the beginning of the season.
I came up with a few rough sketches and brought them into our next meeting. We were caught between two designs but we decided to go with the design that had the full outline of the blue whale and fun geometric designs. Here is the evolution in pictures of the design.
Even though this mural seems very different from my usual practice it has elements that are very relevant to the work I do in my studio. For one the male blue whale is going extinct in the Atlantic. In my botanical drawings and paintings my subjects are always plants that are endangered or extinct. The mural also contains strong use of squares which is a form that is reoccurring in my work for some time now. We were all very happy with the final design and we were all very excited to start the mural itself.
Layout & Execution
Gillian Maradyn was my partner in all this, she was my main women. Gillian is a student at NSCAD University focusing on ceramics and she works for the LCN during the summer months. Gillian organized all the material sourcing, documenting, and volunteer recruiting and organizing. It was awesome having Gillian working with me, because all the organizing was in her capable hands and I was able to focus on executing the mural completely and work my two jobs. I can't thank her enough.
With over 23 volunteers and a combined 95 hours of work we finished the mural in the first two weeks of July. It was an amazing effort from all the volunteers, Lunenburg Community Network, Fisheries Museum of Atlantic, Waterfront Development, Board of Trade, First Impressions and Gillian and myself. I hope this project leads to others like it and I hope you can all go and see it soon! Here's a video made by one of our amazing volunteers Steve Sim.