PHOTOS AND STORY BY MELODY FALCONER-POUNDER
In the late afternoon of Sept. 13, about 40 people gathered along the side of the Bayfield Arena and Community Centre on Jane Street to celebrate the completion of the Bayfield Mural Project.
In his opening remarks, Executive Director of the Bayfield Centre for the Arts (BCA) John Rishworth said, “Today’s celebration is reflective of why public art helps a community to cultivate a strong cultural identity. It brings people together and makes art accessible to everyone. Public art activates our imagination through its visual presence and ability to tell a story. And boy, does this tell a beautiful story!
“Today we all get a chance to take a moment and reflect on this wonderful mural. The Bayfield Centre for the Arts had a vision for bringing a mural to Bayfield, so when we heard that the County was applying for a federal grant, we jumped on the idea of curating the project in our community.”
Members of the BCA first made a presentation to the Municipality of Bluewater Council on June 20 where approval was given with the caveat that council was allowed final approval on the mural’s design. Their approval was granted at the council meeting held on Aug. 8.
Huron County Economic Development agreed to provide a maximum of between $15,000 – $20,000 in funding to BCA for this public art project and as a result there was no financial impact to the Municipality of Bluewater.
A Community Mural Committee was organized to ensure the mural fairly represented the village. The committee members were: Diane Snell, Pegi McCrae, Mike De Corte, Bob Skivington, Sandra May and Crawford Service.
The artist selected to create the design and complete the project was Meaghan Claire Kehoe, a mural artist and painter based in Oshawa,ON. She began working on the mural, with her medium of choice – spray paint – the week of Aug. 22.
Bayfield’s Mural is the first to be completed among the six planned for Huron County and dignitaries and county representatives were invited to share their insights and thoughts on the initiative at the launch. The speakers were Mayor of Bluewater Paul Klopp, Warden of Huron County Glen McNeil, and Vicki Lass, the director of Huron County Economic Development.
Leslee Squirrell, president of the BCA, was asked to introduce the mural artist and encouraged her to share the story behind her creative process.
Kehoe noted that she was first contacted by Huron County’s Economic Development Officer Rick Sickinger who forwarded her on to Squirrell whom she organized a site visit with.
“Leslie was obviously the huge hype woman here that filled me in on everything Bayfield,” Kehoe told those gathered. “I really wanted to capture the spirit here. I knew it had to have sunset colors. The color palette would have to reflect that Bayfield beach evening that everyone shows up for and I thought basically how better than three versions of clouds going on so that the blue sky clouds are in the back and the sunset clouds almost moving into night time storm clouds are at the bottom.”
The orange sunset sky is central to the mural that “wouldn’t have been complete without some marina life with sailboats in the background over the water.”
Kehoe noted she added aspects to the mural that were tributes to local flora and fauna with the Blue Heron in the foreground, a bird that Kehoe noted, “is naturally sighted here often” and the indigenous Sweet Pea flowers. “Someone told me I nailed it on those,” she said.
An important attribute of the mural is that it also acts as a wayfinding tool directing people to the shopping district.
“Obviously your Instagram social media moment is there with the Bayfield directional sign, loud and proud, with a quick reminder to go shopping just over there,” Kehoe said.
The artist explained that although she loves doing private art projects she is very passionate about creating public art.
“I love doing community public art because I get to speak to so many people, not just like, verbally speaking, but with my work. Public art is a conversation and it’s a back and forth and it comes together with so many people’s voices involved,” Kehoe said.
The artists expressed her thanks to the County of Huron, to Squirrel, to the mural committee and the council for bringing the project to fruition.
She shared that she was honestly overwhelmed by the community support for the process as people not only stopped to chat and share a friendly word but they brought her muffins and beverages as well.
“I got to be a local for a second here and got to meet a lot of people who make this community so awesome and for that I thank you.”
“Working with the Economic Development team, and the representatives from the other five communities commissioning murals has been a great experience,” said Squirrell, in a county media release. “We hope that with Bayfield’s mural now complete, it will help to generate more interest and excitement for the other communities participating in the Mural Project as well as for the upcoming Public Art Trail!”
The goal of this creative project is to enhance the cultural vibrancy of Huron’s communities and support ongoing tourism recovery in Huron County through public art. Additional murals are planned to be installed in Clinton, Exeter, Goderich, Seaforth and Wingham.
The finished murals will become part of a public art trail across Huron County and are expected to remain in place for approximately 10-15 years.
Anyone taking pictures with the mural for Social Media are invited to #bayfieldmural.