N.W.T. government prepares to rescue Walt Humphries' mural stored on gravel pile

'I’m glad they wrapped it in a tarp,' the artist said Friday. The government has hired a moving company to move the mural indoors next week.

Moving company to take piece indoors Tuesday, after years outdoors in the sun

Walt Humphries' mural has been wrapped in a tarp, with the government preparing to move it inside on Tuesday. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

The territorial government has wrapped a mural, that was left outdoors, in a tarp for the weekend, with plans to move it indoors on Tuesday and eventually re-install it in a public place. 

The mural was taken down from its original location at the old Stanton Territorial Hospital when construction at the new hospital began, said Infrastructure spokesperson Greg Hanna in an email. He said it was moved north where it was placed on the ground "due to its size and weight and in its original assembly."

The mural is an eight-and-a-half-metre-long, two-and-a-half-metre-wide painting produced by well-known Yellowknife artist Walt Humphries in 1992.

A friend of Humphries recently discovered the mural — somewhat weathered by the elements — face up on a gravel pile, where it appears to have laid for several years. 

Walt Humphries examining the damage earlier this week. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

"I'm glad they wrapped it in a tarp," Humphries said Friday. 

Humphries said he was surprised by the reaction in the community to the discovery. He's heard stories from several people who recall the mural from hospital visits. Many found comfort in it. 

"That's what it was meant for." 

The mural in its original glory. (Submitted by Walt Humphries)

He's now looking forward to the restoration project of the biggest painting he's ever produced. 

"How much work it's gonna take, I really don't know." 

A moving company has been hired to move the piece indoors, Hanna wrote Friday in a response to questions about the mural posed Monday. The company will exercise "care and respect for the artwork to ensure it is properly handled and stored." 

Humphries at work on the mural in the early 1990s. (Submitted by Walt Humphries)

Some landscaping at the new hospital is planned for this summer. "Prior to the finalization of the landscape design, the contractor will engage with Mr. Humphries for advice on where to re-install the mural as well as to identify any restoration needs," Hanna said. 

He also said the territorial government has reached out to Humphries "to assure him that the mural will be moved and stored and looks forward to working with him and the contractor to establish a location for the mural to highlight the North's culture and heritage at the new Stanton Hospital."


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