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Town inviting artists to share visions of local heritage

Reilly Fitzgerald painting one of the murals for the Town of Clarenville.
Reilly Fitzgerald painting one of the murals for the Town of Clarenville.

CLARENVILLE, NL – The Town of Clarenville’s place in Canadian heritage and culture will be reflected through the eyes of artists as part of the “Clarenville Paints Clarenville” project this summer and fall. 

The town is inviting artists to create a series of murals highlighting Clarenville’s local, provincial and national heritage and culture.

The project will serve as a physical memento of Canada’s 150th anniversary, thanks to a $100,000-grant from Heritage Canada. 

The completed murals will eventually be displayed in eight to 12 public spaces around the town.

 “We will invite artists from near and far to submit expressions of interest to come to Clarenville and paint a mural in a public place . . . allowing the public to interact with the artists,” said Todd Cole, Clarenville’s director of leisure services.

He added the theme of the murals must show a connection with the celebration of Canada.

One of the featured artists is Clarenville’s Reilly Fitzgerald, who is creating a mural combining his original works, Prodigious and Colossal. He’s recreating images from his smaller pieces into a waterproof, eight foot by 12-foot mural to be mounted on a public building in the town.

Fitzgerald’s original three-dimensional piece Prodigious depicts a sperm whale breaching in the ocean in front of an iceberg. His new, much larger piece combines these images with those of a boat and fishermen, “things that are synonymous with Newfoundland, and Canada – especially now that tourism has become a major factor in our economy.”

“When people think of Newfoundland from anywhere across Canada, it’s ice bergs, whales and the fishery,” said Fitzgerald. “We’ve moved from just the fishery to tourism and these (attractions) we have on our doorstep. People think of Canada in the same way too.”

Fitzgerald’s mural consists of three sheets of four by eight plywood that will be mounted outdoors, creating the additional challenge of producing a piece that will stand up to the weather. 

“I’ve never had to use paint that has to withstand the elements before,” he said. “I’ve had to scrape off what I had done and start again when the paint I used wasn’t conducive to being outdoors, so I’ve learned a few things in the process.”

Working with such a large piece also means painting outside in the elements, rather than in the controlled environment of his studio.  

“I’m battling with rain, and the wind, with stuff blowing around, so I’ve set up an assembly line where I can go out at work when my conditions are right, and the environment is right too.”

Fitzgerald’s conditions include chronic back pain and a severe AV fistula that affects his right arm. These issues, along with recent surgery, affect his ability to work. When asked to participate in the project, Fitzgerald needed a bit of a head start.  

“With my physical condition, I need more time than most to do it, so I’ve been working on it for 15 minutes, a half hour at a time since mid-May.”

Working on a piece to represent the heritage of both his province and country is an honour for Fitzgerald, especially since he is free to incorporate his unique artistic style in any way he chooses. 

“It took me a lot of years to develop a style,” he said. “When I took commissions, people would ask for things to be realistic. The pressure of trying to please someone else’s vision was hard. I needed my art – it was the only thing I was physically able to do. It’s one of the only things I could concentrate on that I didn’t have to think too much – it comes naturally. When I started painting for myself, I found my unique style.”

The “Clarenville Paints Clarenville” project will run throughout late summer and into the fall as artists are selected to participate. Fitzgerald’s mural is expected to be unveiled at “The Ultimate Clarenville Kitchen party” event June 30, and on display at Canada Day in the Park.   

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