Nova Scotia

Freak Lunchbox says artist's family had weeks to remove tall ships mural

The owner of Freak Lunchbox, a candy store in downtown Halifax, says he gave people ample time to move a piece of art on the side of the building.

Move to save tall ships mural comes too late, says owner Jeremy Smith

Freak Lunchbox is painting over this mural with a new design by Montreal artist Jason Botkin. (Catharine Tunney/CBC)

The owner of Freak Lunchbox, a candy store in downtown Halifax, says he gave people ample time to move a piece of art on the side of the building.

Zeqirja Rexhepi, painted the mural Tall Ships 2000 to commemorate tall ships visiting Halifax 15 years ago.

Jeremy Smith, the owner of the Freak Lunchbox as well as the owner of the painting and building, had asked the public for submissions to replace the work with something more modern, while looking for someone interested in putting the mural up elsewhere.

He said he had done everything he could to find a new home for the mural, without success — so it would be painted over.

"Unfortunately the family of the artist contacted the media on Friday, well after my plans were in place. I have had lifts and painting crews booked for tonight (Sunday) and tomorrow for weeks now," Smith told CBC News in an email.

"I personally offered to remove the mural for them three weeks ago (August 11) and had no response whatsoever."

'We are offering it to you'

Dominion Diving in Dartmouth had offered to provide a place for the artwork on the rear of its business.

"Dominion Diving told me directly they had no interest and the costs of reinstalling were not viable, so we went ahead with our plans. The wall needed to be primed for the arrival of Montreal artist Jason Botkin on Tuesday," said Smith. 

According to a series of emails between Smith and the Rexhepi family — which Smith sent CBC News — Smith sent an email to Rexhepi on Aug. 11.

"Before we proceed, we are offering it to you. I have a quote from our contractor, Castone Construction, to remove it; though it seems quite high at $3,500. I am sure you can find someone to take it down for less money," read the Aug. 11 email.

"At this point we are hoping to start painting in September. If you are interested in keeping the piece I would appreciate your notice within the next few weeks. If there is no interest in saving it we will paint over it as a cost-saving measure.

"This is a last resort and it would be a shame, so I am contacting you first. If we do end up having to go this route I would appreciate your acknowledgement that we did offer you the piece."

'I wish this could have gone differently'

Arta Rexhepi, the daughter of the artist responded to Smith's email on Friday. 

"I wanted to let you know that we will be moving the mural [Saturday]. The moving company might not have the boom jack (I think that's what they said) on time, it might take until Tuesday to move it all. We hope you can hold off until late Tuesday/Wednesday to start your work for the new mural," she said in the email on Friday.

But Smith responded, to that email, saying it was too late and that he "wish this could have gone differently."

"I have booked and paid for crews and booms, scheduled flights and hotels and have already committed to an artist who is arriving this week and expecting a paint-ready surface," he wrote.

"I do not know the state of the wall behind the painting, and you have left me with no time to repair it as necessary."

In terms of what the new design will be, Smith said he wants to keep it a surprise but did offer a little tease.

"It has a Maritime theme and we are quite excited but I think revealing it prior may steal some of the excitement," he said.

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