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Chemainus Fire Department 100th anniversary mural taking shape

Artist who’s a newcomer to Shawnigan Lake putting the finishing touches to the project
This wall space on the back of the Chemainus post office will soon look a lot better with the addition of a 100th anniversary Chemainus Fire Department commemorative mural. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The details are being kept under wraps, but a very special addition to the Chemainus mural project is nearing completion and will be unveiled soon.

People are getting fired up over word that a rather drab wall at the back of the Chemainus post office is about to sparkle with a mural to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Chemainus Fire Department this year.

“The fire hall proposed a mural for the 100th anniversary and the society has been working with the fire hall to have the mural created,” explained Shannon Bellamy of the Chemainus Festival of Murals Society.

Angela Carlson, a newcomer to Shawnigan Lake in August from Burnaby, was selected to paint the mural and has been diligently working toward finishing it at her home studio by the end of the week, with a possible unveiling around mid-June.

The eight-foot by 20-foot mural is a collage of scenes – both historical and current – and being painted on marine plywood known as Crezon, Bellamy explained.

“We thought that was the best to use on that location. Some of the best walls for painting on are gone. That’s why lately we’re getting down to fewer and fewer walls; the Crezon is the way to go. It’s on a framework.”

Anticipation of what the finished product will look like, especially for such a prominent anniversary that has otherwise been lost in the COVID shuffle, is building.

“It’ll be a surprise,” said Bellamy. “It’s a really neat mural. It starts way back and comes to the present.”

Carlson, who turned 55 on Victoria Day in the middle of doing the project, is thrilled to be joining the family of Chemainus murals artists.

Related story: New mural depicts a love story in the making along Chemainus Road

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s quite an honour and quite a welcome to Vancouver Island. People know right away what the Chemainus murals mean.”

Carlson was born in Brandon, Manitoba and lived in Saskatchewan briefly before her family moved to Prince George where she primarily grew up. She also lived in the Okanagan for several years before moving to the Lower Mainland in 2007 and on to Shawnigan where Carlson and her husband Neil VanderWerf chose to relocate upon his retirement.

Carlson attended the Emily Carr University of Art and Design during her 20s, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. In Burnaby, she worked for many years in a scene shop that does scenic elements for theatre, trade shows, film and attractions.

Doing a mural, however, is “quite different from doing a backdrop for theatre,” she conceded.

For one thing, “people are hopefully going to stop and contemplate,” Carlson indicated. “It’s nice to be part of that collection and selection of people.”

The maquette Carlson did of the mural in the process will eventually be added to the Chemainus Valley Museum collection.

The fire department mural has required some additional research to get all the details just right from archival photographs.

“It’s been kind of fun and it’s been really challenging to make sense of things where the visual information isn’t complete,” said Carlson.

Five sheets of the Crezon plywood will make up the overall mural. She likes working with the material.

“A lot of sign makers use this,” she pointed out. “It’s really smooth on one side.”

The official date for the unveiling will be announced soon and whether there can be a public gathering for the event with COVID restrictions easing.

Other murals are in the works for the Rotary Club of Chemainus bunker wall and the Mount Brenton Golf Club in the near future.

Angela Carlson, a newcomer to Shawnigan Lake, is doing the 100th anniverary Chemainus Fire Department commemorative mural. (Photo by Neil VanderWerf)
Angela Carlson’s mural is being kept under wraps for now, but will soon be unveiled. (Photo by Neil VanderWerf)