Nova Scotia

'We need cheerfulness': Antigonish revives mural project to uplift town

The beautification committee in Antigonish is hoping that by bringing back an old contest for local artists, they'll inspire people in the community.

Work of one local artist will be installed on the side of a business in Antigonish

Coun. Andrew Murray stands in front of one of his own murals in Antigonish from 2007. He would love to see all the blank walls in the community's downtown filled with local artwork. (Robert Short/CBC)

If Andrew Murray had his way, every building in Antigonish, N.S., would become a canvas for local murals.

"It's very, very important," he said. "To me, the more art the better."

Murray is a town councillor and chair of Antigonish's beautification and land-rehabilitation committee. He also happens to be a mural artist himself.

Since the pandemic hit, they've been trying to come up with ways to uplift the town.

The committee decided to bring back an old mural contest that had been shelved for the last few years.

"We need cheerfulness," said Murray. "We need things to inspire us."

Winning artwork from Antigonish's mural program can be found throughout the town's core. Coun. Andrew Murray says there's no shortage of businesses willing to offer up space to showcase the work. (Robert Short/CBC)

Local artists submitted paintings based on themes including diversity, history and education. One will be turned into a photo mural, which will be installed on a local business.

"It's no coincidence that we're in the middle of this pandemic and people are doing everything they can to add some colour and life to our world because it can be pretty grim the last seven, eight months," said Murray.

"The timing was right."

The beautification committee isn't the only group thinking art can make a difference to Antigonish.

A few weeks ago, Micheal Burt, Daniel Burt, and Donnie Fraser of Trackside Studios painted a large mural that wraps around the back of the Antigonish 5¢ to $1 store.

This new mural was spray-painted by three artists from Trackside Studios a few weeks ago. Coun. Andrew Murray says people go out of their way to see it, which shows there's a big desire for more public art. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

The store posted on its Facebook page that Heritage Canada contributed to the grant to pay for the piece.

Already, it has drawn a lot of attention, said Murray. 

"That was so impactful because of the nature of its colour and the liveliness of it."

This bear, by Adele MacFarlane, was one of the mural contest winners. It's installed next to the library in Antigonish. (Robert Short/CBC)

The winner of this year's community contest will be picked in November. Murray said the committee will run the contest annually to keep filling up more blank canvases in the town.

He's hoping by reviving the program, the community will add to the diversity of its art and inspire other local artists.

"It's win-win for everyone," he said. "It's beautifying the property owner's building. It's adding vibrancy and colour and creativity to the downtown area and showcasing our local artists all at the same time."

About the Author

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

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