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New Oxford mural is made to last

15-year-old Jada Ripley, right, and 18-year-old Julia Gill stand in front of one of 12 panels they painted for a mural that will be unveiled Aug. 24 on a prominent building on Water Street in Oxford.
15-year-old Jada Ripley, right, and 18-year-old Julia Gill stand in front of one of 12 panels they painted for a mural that will be unveiled Aug. 24 on a prominent building on Water Street in Oxford. - Dave Mathieson

Mural to be unveiled Aug. 24 at 10 a.m.

OXFORD, N.S. —

15-year-old Jada Ripley hopes her artwork stands the test of time.

“I hope in a few years there’s not something I’m going to look at and say, ‘why didn’t I fix that.’”

What she’ll be looking at for at least the next decade, or decades, is a mural hanging outside the building at 9 Water Street on Blueberry Corner in Oxford.

The Ripley-designed mural was created for a contest initiated by Ruth Collins, director of Cumberland Performing Arts.

“I saw this blank wall and I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to have a musical mural on there?’ So we did a contest for students from ages eight to 18 to enter a mural drawing.”

The contest opened in early May and wrapped up June 3. Ripley, along with five other people, submitted their designs and, in the end, judges deemed Ripley’s submission the best.

“Jada’s mural is a compilation of the arts, both historical and current, because Nova Scotia has a vast, rich history of music and performing arts,” Collins said.

The mural took Ripley ‘a few days’ to design, and depicts musicians, dancers, and actors performing on stage.

“I took my sketchbook and sketched out some designs and decided I didn’t want to focus on one performing art because there’s such a variety, so I put in instruments, theatre, and dance,” Ripley said.

She also depicted blueberries in her design.

“Everyone in town is going to see it, so I met with the town council and their only request was for it to have a blueberry connection because Oxford’ is the blueberry capital of Canada,” Collins said.

Many people get their photo taken with Oxley the Blueberry on Main Street, so, besides an abundance of blueberries, the mural also depicts eight different Oxley’s.

“We’ve done a ‘Where’s Oxley,’ and within the mural are eight Oxley’s people can try to find,” Collins said.

Not only did Ripley, who enters Grade 11 at Oxford Regional Education Centre this September, sketch the original design but she was also hired, along with 18-year-old Julia Gill, to turn the original one-page sketch into a 16x12-foot mural.

The duo started work on the mural on July 2 and worked from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday for a total of four weeks in the basement of the Oxford Church of the Nazarene.

Their first task was to take the original single-page drawing, fold it into six sections, and then, using a projector, project each section, one at a time, onto six 4x8 sheets of plywood hanging from the wall.

“We painstakingly traced it to make sure we had it just right,” Gill said.

They then painted what they traced. Gill says faces were the most difficult, adding that it could take three or four hours to paint each face.

“Faces are really particular because, when humans look at faces, they can quickly pick out mistakes because faces are something we see every day,” Gill said. “So, painting faces is a bit more nerve-wracking and takes a lot of time because the skin-tones takes a lot of layers to get right.”

On the final day of painting, before varnish was applied, Ripley said she was more than satisfied with the finished product.

“It’ doesn’t feel real that we’re finished but I’m really happy with how it looks,” said Ripley.

Collins originally budgeted $10,000 for the project, and money has been raised through a walkathon, a bake sale, and many donations of money, materials, work, and time from people throughout the community.

“We hope to hang it on the wall on Aug. 22, somehow cover it up, and then reveal it on Saturday, Aug. 24 at 10 a.m.,” Collins said. “We’ll have entertainment and probably a little bit of food.”

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