Two years ago, then Recreation Director Bill Schurman presented a report on the state of the murals that were part of the Amherst Mural Project in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The prognosis was not good.
Since then, the town partnered with the Branch 10 of the Royal Canadian Legion to repaint the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Mural on panels and place it on the east side of the town hall building on Victoria Street. The new mural and adjoining park that houses the Vimy Tree were dedicated last November.
As for the original mural, it remains on the south side of the former Dunlap’s Hardware building on Havelock Street. It’s one of several murals that have been all but forgotten since the former Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society closed its doors several years ago – not to be replaced with a new organization.
In 2017, a report by Schurman and horticulturalist Chelsea Baird said only the hockey mural at the stadium and the Dayle’s Mural are in great condition while the Acadian mural at the corner of Church and Victoria Street, the Mansour’s Mural, the Transportation mural on Station Street and Music Mural on Princess Street are in good condition.
The others – including the Highlanders mural, the Great Amherst Mystery Mural and the Amherst in Action Mural – are in fair condition. The other mural, the craft association mural, that was on the former National Specialty building is no longer there.
While the town has insisted it’s not its responsibility to repair or replace the murals the time is going to come when someone is going to have to decide on their fate. Last month, Kevin Nelson, on whose building the former Highlanders mural remains, asked the town for financial assistance to remove the mural from his building but was referred to the Gritty to Pretty program that’s being coordinated by the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce and the town.
When he made his report two years ago Schurman said between $3,000 and $5,000 should have been budgeted annually for the upkeep of the 12 murals. Unfortunately, it was not and the murals are losing the test of time with peeling, cracking and fading paint.
The murals were intended to be a method of bringing pride in Amherst’s downtown and the community itself. They were meant to be something to enhance the beauty of the downtown core and provide education to visitors about Amherst’s history as a transportation hub, a business community and sports centre. Now they’re becoming an eyesore and no one really knows who or which body is responsible for dealing with them.
It would be easy to tell the town to pay for it, but it shouldn’t up to the town alone to foot the bill since DARS was not a committee of the town, but of the downtown business community. It would also be easy to tell the people owning the buildings on which the murals are placed to deal with them, but that could be a significant financial burden that could result in court through unsightly premises.
Ideally, the town and the building owners can come together to find a solution before the murals pass the point of no return and an agreeable solution to have them restored or removed can be found before they become in an uglier state than they already are.