Murals tell story of Thorold's heritage 0
Over 20,000 square feet of murals along the Greater Niagara Circle Route tell the story of Thorold's history.
The paintings have been there for about five years, but just last year the Thorold Murals Committee decided to repaint the murals onto new and improved aluminum panels.
Eleven different panels cover the back of two industrial buildings on Wellington St. North overlooking the trail, with each mural depicting a notable moment in the city's history to tell the story of Thorold's heritage, including the history of the four Welland Canals.
According to the Thorold Murals Committee chair of six years, Dale Robinson, the murals are a "must see" and she predicts once the artwork is finished, more tourists will come from out of town just to see the paintings.
Up until 2005 when the first mural was painted, graffiti covered the buildings. But in 2008 Robinson and artist Shawn Reimer decided to refurbish the original murals that were painted onto the buildings' bricks.
Tora rents the northern building where some of the artwork resides, but since the neighboring building has been vacant for years, the heating and cooling extremes in temperature changes have raised some challenges, causing parts of the original paintings to peel off and wear away.
Robinson said as opposed to the brick, the aluminum will preserve the paintings better, is higher in quality and will not only be more permanent, but can be moved if the need arises.
"We needed to be sure the murals are no longer fixed to the building," Robinson said. "In case any of the buildings are ever sold, the murals could come down easily and be moved to another location."
The purpose of the murals is to create something that people can find a connection with, both residents and tourists, Robinson said. "We need to take pride in our history and it's a way to help people connect to our city's story."
It's all in an effort to enhance and promote the 160-kilomtre trail that runs along the Welland Canal and in between the lakes; 13.8 kilometres of which is in Thorold.
According the Robinson, Thorold's section that stretches from Lock 4 to Welland is the most interesting, and can be referred to as a landmark for the city, as it is where "ships climb the mountain".
About ten years ago Robinson and her husband Jack saw a mural while eating lunch in Brockville, which sparked the idea to start a similar project in Thorold. "That was when we realized we could do something to connect Thorold to its heritage. We thought we could turn one of Thorold's eyesores into an asset."
Robinson said launching the initiative wasn't easy and it took time to raise money for funding, but today the artwork represents Canada's largest mural, with tourists coming from "all over" just to see the paintings.
A group of volunteers meet biweekly to enhance, maintain and clean up the mural site, which has been home to two incidents of vandalism over the years. Reimer and his team of staff are responsible for getting the paintings completed.
What has made the project possible is the help from a committee of volunteers and community donations. In 2006 the committee received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, however the majority of funding has come from within the local community and its merchants.
Just recently the Thorold Lions Club jumped on board to help the cause, which Robinson has been of "great" assistance in getting the overgrown area cleaned up, so one day the murals can be seen from the road.
"It's fantastic to see the community rallying around the cause," Reimer said.
On Friday, August 19 Walker Brothers was added to the list of supporters for its $20,000 donation. The company's vice president, Mike Watt, said the reason he wants to support the initiative is because he believes the murals will be something permanent for Thorold.
"It's a visible thing we can do to have an impact on the community." He added it's a way to give back to the city, alluding to the recent problems associated with odours emanating from the company's landfill, affecting residents in the Welland Canal area.
The Welland Canal mural was the first piece to be painted on the aluminum panels, but the most recent project to be completed is the Laura Secord and Battle of Beaverdams mural-an 1812 commemorative piece paying tribute to Thorold's role in the historic war and its veterans.
Another notable piece is the pulp and paper mural, which shows the development of the industry in Thorold from the time when ships loaded with pulpwood brought forests of trees to the city's many paper mills, to when Abitibi Bowater began using recycled paper to make newsprint.
But according to Reimer, the main artistic force behind the project, the Welland Canal mural is single-handedly one of the most significant panels on site, telling the story of its construction and the disaster when a portion of Lock 6 collapsed.
All of the mural content on site is approved by the city's resident historians, John Burtniak and Alun Hughes.
They, and the committee, are in the process of working on a booklet to tell the story of each mural panel, and in time for the War of 1812 bicentennial celebrations next summer, they also plan to create an audio walking tour.
Blank aluminum panels have already been installed at the Nick Basciano Centre for the next mural on deck: a tribute to Thorold's history in sports.
"We have an amazing history here in Thorold; one we can all take pride in. We are truly grateful to our generous supporters and our hard-working volunteers who have enabled us to tell this story," Robinson said.