Nova Scotia

Freak Lunchbox to replace Tall Ships mural in Halifax with new art

A mural of tall ships on the side of a building in downtown Halifax will soon be painted over, after the building's owner was unable to find the artwork a new home.

Artist Zeqirja Rexhepi, of Dartmouth, is hoping city will step forward to move mural

The owner of Freak Lunchbox, who also owns this mural, was quoted $3,000 to remove the piece. He said that's not a reasonable price for a mom and pop candy store.

A mural of tall ships on the side of a building in downtown Halifax will soon be painted over, after the building's owner was unable to find the artwork a new home.

The artwork, called Tall Ships 2000, is featured on Barrington Street on the side of the Freak Lunchbox candy store. The building's structural problems need repair and the building's owner said earlier this year that meant the mural had to come down.

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.

Smith told CBC News on Friday he has done everything he could to find a new home for the mural, without success. He said he was quoted a $3,000 price to remove the mural, which he said was not a reasonable price for a mom and pop candy store.

Artist upset

Zeqirja Rexhepi, the Dartmouth artist who painted the mural, says it upsets him that the mural will be painted over and he's hoping the city will step forward to help save it.

"The owner, he's going to do whatever he wants, but he has to consider because it's art. Art is not only mine, it is everybody's. He's got to find some solution for that," he said.

Rexhepi painted the mural in 2000 to commemorate tall ships visiting Halifax. He fled Kosovo with his family in the late 1990s, and says the Barrington Street mural was his first major commission after arriving in the city.

It was painted on sheets of plywood, which were attached to the side of the Barrington Street building. 

After Rexhepi voiced his displeasure earlier this year about a replacement piece of art, Freak Lunchbox offered to help find a place to move the mural.

Support structure too expensive

Dominion Diving in Dartmouth offered to provide a place for the artwork on the rear of its business. The location overlooks the historic Shubenacadie Canal.

Matthew Lohnes, the president of Dominion Diving, said he was willing to fund the cost of installation and electrical lighting for the painting because he thought it would be a public service.

"Us being a nautical company, family-owned, born and raised around the water, I always liked that mural when I was driving through Halifax," he said.

However, Lohnes said that the cost of a new support structure for the mural was more than his business could afford. Lohnes estimated the structure would cost between $10,000 and $20,000, and he said others should help shoulder that cost. 

Rexhepi said he believes that the city should take on the cost of moving the mural, as public art is a means of beautifying public space. He said it would also send a message to mural artists who have already put up work around Halifax that their work is valued. 

The city originally helped fund the cost of creating the painting through a grant to the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, but said it's not involved with current discussions around the mural. 

Freak Lunchbox has hired Jason Botkin, a Montreal-based mural painter, to create a new piece of art on the side of the building.

Botkin will arrive to begin his work on Tuesday, so Smith said that the current mural must be painting over by Monday.


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