EDITORIAL: Tough decision needed for murals’ future

Published on May 19, 2017

Back in the 1990s the former business improvement commission – later renamed the Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society – came up with a novel way to increase community pride as well as awareness of Amherst’s heritage.

Working in concert with various levels of government the Amherst Mural Project was born. It started with the Signature Mural depicting Amherst’s Old Home Week Parade of 1910 and was soon followed by several other murals including the Cumberland Craft Association, the Women’s Mural, the Music Mural along with Building the Aboiteau,the Transportation Mural, the Great Amherst Mystery and the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Mural.
While the murals were never intended to be a tourist attraction, they did help bring people to the downtown. Every summer visitors could be seen strolling through the downtown area snapping photos of the town’s architectural heritage and the murals.
To that extent Amherst was following the example set by Chemainus on Vancouver Island. That community used murals to showcase its heritage while enhancing community pride. More than 40 murals have been painted there over the years. They’re well maintained and when their time is up they are taken down and replaced with another mural.
Here, unfortunately, no one thought long term when it came to the murals and now, 10 years after many of them were painted, their colours are beginning to fade and the paint is peeling and cracking.
The Signature Mural was lost when the Bird Drapery Building was demolished several years ago and some of the other murals are near the point that it would make more sense to paint over them.
Although it was not a town project, it appears as though that burden is going to fall upon its lap. Council has asked its recreation director Bill Schurman, to look at what options are available and it’s quite possible some of the murals may end up being painted over if the cost of restoring them is too high.
As a community, we need to provide input to those making the decision, but that input has to be more than telling council to open its chequebook. A real plan that includes long-term maintenance has to be developed. Failing that, and knowing how important it is to be careful with the public treasury, we should be prepared to let the murals fade into our past – as painful as that may be.