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Carl Dubé (right), owner of Totem Roasters in Vankleek Hill, was all smiles as he was joined by his brother Christian last Saturday, November 6, as the pair began work on installation of the replacement panels for the Community Patchwork Mural at the corner of Main Street and Highway 34. Photo: Reid Masson

Vankleek Hill’s Community Patchwork Mural is back!

Vankleek Hill’s updated Community Patchwork Mural is back in its spot at the corner of Main Street and Highway 34 – and it is spectacular!

The repainted mural – a replica of the original painted by artists Lis Skelly and Odile Têtu more than two decades ago – was mounted back in its original spot on Main Street – facing north, just west of the stoplight last weekend (November 6-7). Carl Dubé, who owns the building, worked with his brother Christian and other helpers to mount the sign above the entrance to Dubé’s business Totem Roasters.

It’s not quite finished yet,” said the building’s owner after the full mural was in place, noting there needs to be flashing added and other final touches. “But it looks awesome!”

The repainting of the Community Patchwork Mural, was spearheaded by artist/coordinator Lorie Turpin, who painted the majority of the individual panels on the new work. A number of other artists also painted panels on the huge artwork, including local painters Susie Fairbrother and Sylvie Bouchard. Bridget Macdonald helped Turpin with tracing and outlines for the many panels she painted.

“Bridget was invaluable,” Turpin said. “It would have taken me years if I didn’t have her help.”

The decision to replace the original mural with as accurate a reproduction as possible was taken after consultation with the original artists, other artists, art professionals from Montreal, and community members. It was determined that the original mural could not be rehabilitated due to the deterioration of the wood and its paints. An attempt to repair a portion of the mural was not successful.

The mural project was organized by the Arbor Gallery, which also raised funds towards its recreation. The project was initiated in 2018 by Derek Evans, who handed off the project to Turpin to lead when he moved to Vancouver in 2020.

Turpin said Dubé’s support was essential for the project. The owner of the building removed the old mural panel by panel so that it could be preserved and also installed the new version.

“Carl has been amazing,” the artist said. “When he bought the building, the old mural was on it and when he found out we were redoing it he came right to me and said ‘I want it back up’.”

“I wouldn’t have taken the time to take (the mural) down and put it back up if I wasn’t (enthusiastic about the project),” explained Dubé, who purchased the building in 2018.

The owner of Totem Roasters said that as a newcomer to Vankleek Hill, he felt it was important to help restore such an important part of the community’s heritage.

”When you’re new to a town you want to (be part of the community),” Dubé said. “The worst thing I could have done, in my mind, was to take it down and not put it back up.”

“Teamwork – that’s really what it was,” said the building’s owner. “None of us could have done it without each other.”

“I’m not an artist so I couldn’t have (painted) the mural. I can take it off and put it on, but that’s about it.”

The project was complicated by the historic building’s age, structure and its location on a slope.

“Everything is not exactly straight,” Dubé laughed. “Once we got going and the pieces of wood were in place it was easy enough.”

A chimney had also been added to the wall since the original mural was taken down in 2018, which had to be accounted for. The result was that the replica has what used to be its left half located on the right, and vice versa.

“It’s the same scenes in the same positions, but to accommodate the chimney we had to take what was on the left and put it on the right,” Dubé noted.

The building’s owner was not the only one pleased to see the mural back in its old spot. A photo posted on The Review’s Facebook of the new mural’s installation attracted hundreds of likes and comments over the weekend and passersby continually stopped to admire the work and offer their congratulations as it was being put up.

“We’ve had people stopping, talking about it and saying how great it looks,” Turpin said. “People were honking as they were going through the intersection.”

“It’s been causing quite the commotion, which is really fun.”

Local artist Lorie Turpin spearheaded the recreation of the Community Patchwork Mural and painted many of the panels herself. Photo: Reid Masson
The new mural’s painted panels depict the same scenes as on the original Community Patchwork Mural, but some modifications had to be made to account for a new chimney that was installed on the side of the building after the mural was taken down in 2018. Panels which were on the left in the original are now on the right, and vice versa.
The original Community Patchwork Mural, shortly before it was removed from the building in 2018. Due to significant damage from the elements, it was determined that the panels from the original could not be restored. File Photo
A close up of one of the panels from the original Community Patchwork Mural. The grey parts seen are areas where the paint has worn off the plywood panels of the original mural. Photo: Louise Sproule

Reid Masson

Reid Masson is a graduate of Algonquin College's Journalism Program. He has over 20 years of experience as a staff writer and editor for various newspapers across Canada, including The Ottawa Citizen and Brockville Recorder and Times.

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