If you’ve ever walked or driven along Harbour Drive in downtown St. John’s, you’ve probably looked up at some point and admired the Sheila’s Brush mural by artist Helen Gregory. The mural, formerly located next door to the Neal Building at 50 Harbour Drive, shows the legendary Sheila throwing out her dishwater, resulting in the last winter storm we’ve come to expect around St. Patrick’s Day.
The iconic mural, which had been up for some 30 years, was removed several years ago and discovered in a dumpster by a local resident. She rescued the piece and eventually connected with Chris Shortall of G. J. Shortall Ltd. (a local, family-based wholesale food company), who stored it for another couple of years at the businesses’ warehouse. (The mural is currently being stored at St. Agnes Auditorium in Pouch Cove, which Shortall recently purchased and is transforming into a community space.)
Now, the mission to restore and rehome the mural is full-speed ahead. There’s about a half dozen people involved – a casual, community collective of folks who’ve enjoyed the artwork over the years. One of them is local resident Sarah Ferber, who has started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds for associated costs.
The main goal right now, Ferber says, is to find an artist to take on the required restoration work. While Gregory, the original artist, who now lives in Ontario, is not able to do the restoration herself, “she is involved in advising on it, and she’s been a great help,” Ferber says. Also needed is a space for the artist to carry out this work (which, Ferber adds, could take place at St. Agnes’s in Pouch Cove, if the artist is able to get there. But they’re also open to other possibilities).
Finally, they’re looking for a new home for the mural once the restoration work has been completed – ideally, a location near where it was originally placed.
“It was such a special part of downtown St. John’s. So ideally, we’d like it to go back up somewhere with a view of the harbour in St. John’s. So then it would be trying to find a local business or public building or whatever that would be willing to have that mural put back on the side,” Ferber says.
So far, the GoFundMe campaign has raised almost $900 of its $3,000 goal, which will help acquire supplies to assist with the restoration including paints and, depending on where the mural will be placed, scaffolding and labour. Ferber calls it a “labour of love.”
“The people involved, we just all really like it. And same thing with the people that have donated. We’re getting these nice messages from people saying that they’ve always liked it and they’re happy that somebody’s taking on trying to get it restored,” she says.
For now, the mural is safe and sound until it can (hopefully) once again be displayed downtown for all to enjoy.
“It was an iconic part of downtown…and it gave a lot of people enjoyment over the years. The story of Sheila’s Brush and the piece itself is a really interesting piece of Irish and St. John’s/Newfoundland and Maritime folklore all kind of mixed into one…these stories are not always top of mind, but this is one that comes up in the public consciousness every year…so it is something that people can relate to,” Ferber adds.
“I think it’s a beautiful piece of art, and I’d love to see it back up again.”
Anyone who is interested in supporting or sponsoring this project, or assisting with the mural’s restoration and placement, can contact Sarah Ferber at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also click here to check out the GoFundMe campaign.