If you’ve passed along McBride’s Hill in downtown St. John’s recently, you’ve likely noticed the red and orange flames that seem to lash out from the concrete wall, destroying everything in its path. The new mural depicting the Great Fire of 1892 tells the tale of the most devastating event in the city’s history and ensures that this part of our past will not be forgotten.
Local artist Julie Lewis spent about 275 hours (from mid August to mid November) working on the 21-metre long, 2,200 square-foot scene. While it was a huge undertaking, the project was made a little easier thanks to help from the local business community.
A project this size, of course, requires a lot of paint – as well as a place to store it. Early on, Lewis says, when she was priming the scene, she would fill smaller containers from a 10-gallon tub, taking only what she needed for the day, and used a wheeled cart to move the paint around. However, a couple of weeks into the project, she adds, more colours were required – making her method inefficient.
Lewis contacted Business & Arts NL for a solution and a secure paint storage space was soon arranged at MetroPark on Duckworth Street. The space is managed by Martek Morgan Finch and owned by The Hardman Group Limited, who also own One Church Hill, MIX apartments and the old CBC building nearby.
“We told them of Julie’s circumstances and they were very happy to help out,” says Duncan Whitcomb, Manager – Commercial Leasing and Sales with Martek Morgan Finch.
“They’re always a big supporter of the arts. They saw a mutually-benefical relationship by helping out this artist…so it was a no-brainer and a win-win for both the arts community and for the developer.”
Lewis says considering our often unpredictable weather, the storage space certainly came in handy.
“When it came to the weather getting kind of finicky in October, I was able to know that the paint was in a warm spot…I probably had, at any given time, 25 gallons,” she says.
“If that space hadn’t been close enough, and if it hadn’t been heated and if it hadn’t been secure, it would’ve added a whole new piece into it. So I was really grateful.”
Lewis says she’s thankful for the support, and also for the opportunity to become better acquainted with her neighbours in the business community. The mural project, she says, helps show the true meaning of community collaboration.
“Everybody was so cooperative. The City was spectacular. Getting to know people in the area, like the Bank of Montreal…for me to be chatting with the VP, Jim, and say to him, ‘By the way, I can’t see the picture right now. Can I pop into your office and take a look from your vantage point?’… I got to know quite a number of business people in the area too, which was good.”