Nova Scotia

Yarmouth considers memorial park honouring Maud Lewis

The idea of building a memorial park at the site where Maud Lewis lived for more than 20 years in Yarmouth, N.S., is receiving praise.

Site on Hawthorne Street where Lewis once lived is preferred location

Retired landscape architect Dan Earle created this model of what the proposed Maud Lewis Memorial Park could look like. (Submitted by Dan Earle)

The idea of building a memorial park at the site where Maud Lewis lived for more than 20 years in Yarmouth, N.S., is receiving praise.

A little more than a week ago, local artist Dan Earle made a presentation of what the park could look like to town council's committee of the whole. He even brought along a nine-by-15-inch model of the park, made from wooden dowels, plastic plants and images cut out from a Maud Lewis calendar.

The floor plan of the home's ground level would be replicated for the park and steel beams would provide a frame to give visitors a sense of what the structure looked like.

There would be interpretive panels, a garden and a statue of the folk artist waving. Lewis was known to wave at the trains that would go by the home, where she lived from around 1914 until 1937.

As shown in this 1971 photo, this is the home in Yarmouth, N.S., where Maud Lewis lived between around 1914 and 1937. (Michael LeBlanc)

Lewis eventually left Yarmouth and sold her paintings from a tiny, ramshackle home she shared with her husband, Everett Lewis, in Marshalltown near Digby.

The brightly painted home is now part of a permanent exhibit at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, while a steel memorial sculpture based on the house sits at its original site.

Though Lewis sold her works for as little as $2 and $3 during her life, her paintings have sold for as much as $45,000 since her death in 1970. The recent biopic, Maudiestarring Oscar-nominated actors Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins has sparked renewed interest in Lewis's work.

Not surprisingly, Earle is a fan.

The artist in residence: Maud Lewis poses with one of her paintings in front of her matrimonial home in Marshalltown, N.S. (Bob Brooks/Art Gallery of Nova Scotia)

"I think what's intriguing about her art is it has a certain naiveté to it. It's straightforward, very graphic and fits in with the folk tradition of art in Nova Scotia even though she probably didn't realize it," he said.

The location for the Maud Lewis Memorial Park would be on Hawthorne Street, which overlooks Yarmouth harbour and is located close to the Yarmouth Farmers' Community Market and the ferry terminal.

Mayor Pam Mood thinks the project is a great idea and said town councillors are all behind the project.

A home Maud Lewis lived in was located at this vacant lot on Hawthorne Street in Yarmouth. A parking lot for the Rodd Colony Harbour Inn is shown to the left. (Google Maps)

The vacant lot is owned by Rodd Hotels and Resorts, which owns the closed Rodd Colony Harbour Inn next door. The hotel was shuttered amid declining business two years after the province cancelled the subsidy for the Yarmouth ferry in 2009.

Mark Rodd, the company's president and CEO, said it wants to work with the town to preserve this important piece of Nova Scotia history.

"As a company and as a partner with the Town of Yarmouth, we want to tell the story and have it there to celebrate [Maud Lewis's] life," he said.

Dan Earle's proposal for a memorial park would include interpretive panels, a garden and a statue of a young Maud Lewis. (Submitted by Dan Earle)

With files from the Canadian Press