Interesting fact: A small town on B.C.’s Vancouver Island is known for its collection of murals – recently adding a new work of art to its collection.
Chemainus Road circa 1945 is the latest mural in the Chemainus Festival of Murals Society’s Outdoor Art Gallery and the 45th in the Historical Mural Series.
Appropriately, the mural is located at the exact spot of the depicted scene on the side of the soon-to-be Violet Wild Cannabis Co. building — formerly the site of Leaf Compassion — and based on a photo showing Chemainus Road at the corner of Mill Street looking south.
The Jolly Trio Snack Bar is on the right. South of that building, at a later date, was a building that housed Jimmy Webster’s barber shop, a beauty salon, and upstairs, Dr. Bryant’s dental office. Clement’s Drug Store and Shaw’s Men’s Wear are on the left. The old Chemainus sawmill planer mill is in the distance.
The mural tells the romantic story from around 1945. The girl riding the bike is Aileen Heikkila, and the paper boy is Russ Roe. One day, as Aileen rode home after picking up the mail, some envelopes flew out of the basket of her bike and Russ helped her retrieve the wayward mail. Aileen and Russ went on to celebrate a wonderful 59-year marriage and partnership.
Their son Dan and his wife Sue own the current building on the site of the former snack bar, at 9750 Chemainus Rd., and they proposed the mural to the Society. They will be lighting the mural soon.
The artist who painted the mural, Kris Friesen of Victoria, is familiar around the community for his recent work on the side of the Osborne Bay Pub Liquor Store in Crofton. Friesen painted the mural on marine plywood and installed it with the help of Dean Irwin and Andrew Moir of TimberStone Construction. Mark Myers of Back to Britain Home Pubs will be framing it.
“The mural took about three weeks to complete, and I did it in my Victoria studio on panels, like the Osborne Bay Pub mural,” Friesen pointed out.
The installation was done after dark under the lights, with plenty of photos and progress videos taken to record the event for posterity.
The Chemainus Festival of Murals Society manages the mural program for the Municipality of North Cowichan, explained board member Peter Collum.
“Mural creation is a multifaceted process. It begins with an idea developed by the society or by a member of the public. Sometimes a building owner approaches the mural society with an idea. Photographs, historical information and other materials are gathered and researched. The next step is often to scout locations and choose the preferred one, once the owner is on board. The society appreciates the generous cooperation of so many Chemainus building owners. We couldn’t do the work without them.”
As for the artists, they respond to a request for proposals, which go to the society’s steering committee for recommendations to the board of directors to make the final decision, Collum added.
“Last-minute details about the mural are discussed with the artist. As part of their contract with the society, the artist then paints a maquette, an artwork that depicts the final mural in miniature. These maquettes eventually end up on loan to the Chemainus Valley Museum. The cost of the mural is usually funded primarily by the society, but sometimes building owners or individuals provide some or all of the funding, or contribute in other ways.
“Originally, the wall was usually prepared for the mural to be painted on directly, but these days, if the wall is problematic, the work can also be painted on marine plywood and installed. When the work is completed, the artist’s name and date are added and the society celebrates the new addition by describing and promoting it in the media and on its website and waits for the appropriate time and circumstances for the official dedication of the mural.”