Public art can give a space a whole new purpose and lease on life. Where one person sees an empty, concrete wall, another sees a blank canvas full of creative opportunity.
Over the past seven years, the story of the town of Botwood has been brought to life thanks to a series of murals located strategically throughout the community. The first mural of the Botwood Mural Arts Society, which was painted by Charlie Johnston and honours the old cottage hospital, was completed as a legacy project to commemorate Come Home Year 2010. The idea quickly caught on and today, Botwood boasts seven beautiful murals – each one depicting an important part of the area’s diverse history and heritage.
The varied and vibrant pieces of art have drawn visitors from near and far. Six of the seven murals were painted by Newfoundland and Labrador artists (Caroline Noseworthy, Craig Goudie and Lloyd Pretty), with funding coming from a range of sources including individuals, the corporate sector and government.
Mike Shainline, president of the Botwood Mural Arts Society, says the support for the mural projects, from the town and elsewhere, has been phenomenal.
“It’s an ongoing process. You just keep knocking on the door. We’ve had local businesses that have been very generous…on every site, the owner of that building has made a financial contribution,” he says.
“We’ve had support in kind from the Town of Botwood since day one. They provided us with a boardroom, they provided us with heat and light, which you can’t take for granted. We have a kiosk that, thanks to the Town of Botwood, provides us with storage space. Every time we do a mural, that kiosk is brought to the site and contains all the equipment the artist needs – the paint supplies, the scaffolding, whatever. We have one church in this community that every year gives us a cheque…it’s all part of the community involvement. (The) Salvation Army men’s group helped with the last project…everybody gets into it.”
Shainline says there are several groups in town that are currently waiting for a mural. The next will be painted at the Botwood Kinsmen Public Library and will be complete around the end of August. The theme will focus on Newfoundland and Labrador authors and their works.
“Murals are such a natural way of telling a story. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the emotions that it presents are worth a million words. And I’m quoting the mayor of Fairport, New York at the last conference when he was talking about mural art and the impact it has in his community,” Shainline says.
A four-member delegation from Botwood, including Shainline and Mayor Scott Sceviour, attended the 10th Biennial Global Mural Conference in Fairport this past September. Mayor Sceviour, who is also chairman of the Botwood Heritage Society, has long supported the mural campaign and the positive spinoffs it brings.
“I believed in this project from day one…I supported this venture because, being involved with council since 1997, I became involved in the tourism side with the town and saw the benefits of anything that could draw in out-of-province visitors, as well as local visitors alike,” he says.
“We have had nothing but positive response to the murals that have been created…People are always asking when and where is the next mural going.”
In 2018, the spotlight will shine on Botwood as it hosts the 11th Global Mural Conference from September 13-15. Botwood beat out Singapore for the honour.
“The reaction to hosting the Global Mural Conference has been nothing but positive…I feel that the buzz will just get louder and louder as we draw nearer and nearer to the date,” Mayor Sceviour says.
“Both economically and socially, we will feel the impact of this conference for years to come. To bring artists from all over the world will do nothing but draw attention to our humble but historical town. (We) cannot wait until that date arises.”