There’s nothing like public art to bring a community together. Besides beautifying a space, public art can tell the story of a place and its people, help evoke beloved memories, and encourage conversations and connections between observers. In the case of the Town of Botwood, public art also helped put the small community on the map – in a big way.
This past September, Botwood rolled out the welcome mat to the world as it played host to the Global Mural Association’s 11th Global Mural Conference (GMC). The biennial event aims to elevate artists and cultural mural events around the globe, while offering visibility to GMC hosts and their mural projects. Botwood beat out Singapore for the honour of hosting this year.
From September 12-15, artists and visitors from around the world descended upon Botwood for a series of workshops, talks, tours, entertainment and, of course, to view the murals for which the community has become renown.
Mayor Scott Sceviour, who is also President of the Botwood Heritage Society, says by all accounts, the event was a smashing success. From the presenters to the special events, he says, it created a buzz throughout the community and “went above and beyond expectations.”
“This was genuinely a community conference. The local businesses did really well with people from outside visiting just to capture a glimpse of the murals. That continued after the conference and still today. I know a local coffee shop and gas station saw visitors from Australia and Italy that came off the TCH just to see the murals and have lunch at the Harbourview Cafe,” Mayor Sceviour notes.
Another visitor from Virginia, he adds, stayed in the area for four days and struck up a friendship with a visiting Argentinian artist. “She thought (it) was a spectacular town and enjoyed it immensely,” he says.
Mike Shainline, President of the Botwood Mural Arts Society, estimates that the event generated revenues between a quarter and a half million dollars into the provincial economy.
“Just as important is that this revenue stream will continue to flow long into the future,” he adds.
With the help of their murals and two museums, Mayor Sceviour says the goal is to get the people of the area to realize their diverse and rich history – one which includes integral roles in aviation, shipping, ship building, mining, forestry, the fishery and more.
Botwood currently has 12 murals throughout the community. On November 28, the town will unveil its latest mural “Come Home” (which will be the largest in Atlantic Canada) in conjunction with a theatre production by the Botwood Collegiate drama club. The theme for both the mural and play is the 125th anniversary of the Newfoundland Railway arriving at the Exploits.
With regards to the murals that have been created, Mayor Sceviour says there has been nothing but positive response, from locals as well as conference guests.
“Everyone was in awe of each and every mural. The iconic train mural on the former paper shed certainly garnered the most attention, but people couldn’t say enough great things about what we are trying to do…nothing but praise about our community as a whole and its people.”