Over the summer, as you enjoy Chemainus’ abundant public art, keep your eyes open for crews at work. They will be washing murals and statues, removing moss and debris, touching up the paint or even completely restoring them.
The Chemainus Festival of Murals Society is responsible for maintaining and cleaning the artwork. With 54 murals and 10 sculptures and statues, there is a lot of work to do. Fortunately, most of the projects each summer are routine maintenance to keep everything bright and appealing. In our climate, murals can last 15 to 20 years before needing a complete restoration.
Water and direct sunlight cause the most damage over the years. North-facing mural walls can grow mold and moss, while direct sunlight is hardest on south- and west-facing walls. The age and condition of the underlying wooden or masonry walls can also affect how long a piece will last before needing a complete renewal.
The society does two to three total mural restorations and projects each year, with the creative work done by the original artist if they are available, or by our curator, artist Cim McDonald. This summer, three murals will need restoration work: the Lone Scout on Croft Street; the Telephone Company – Circa 1915 on Willow Street; and the 33-metre collage on Legion Street.
Native Heritage, probably the most recognized Chemainus mural, requires some repainting along the top of the wall due to water damage. The Spirit of the Earth is a beautiful marble sculpture that will be relocated to Heritage Square where it will be much more visible. Also in the works is the recreation of one of the characters in the sculpture In Search of Snipes, located in the pond in Heritage Square.
These projects and maintenance programs require funding. The Municipality of North Cowichan provides some of the funds required for annual mural upkeep. The society has successfully applied for municipal grants for special projects like the Chemainus Labyrinth and the snipes statue. The municipality is also managing and funding the relocation of the Spirit of the Earth with financial support from the murals society.
The society receives regular grants from BC Gaming, but also counts on donations from individuals and local businesses who recognize both the aesthetic and economic value of the murals. Of the tourists who visit the Visitor Centre, 90 per cent say the murals are the number one reason that brought them to Chemainus.
Become a member of the Society and stay current with mural plans. Individuals and businesses are welcome to join. It only costs $30 for an annual membership. (www.muraltown.com).