Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Downtown Liverpool has looked a little bit brighter these past few weeks thanks to some art students at Liverpool Regional High School (LRHS).
The LRHS students collectively created a mural of 3.66 metres by 2. 44 metres, by producing fish art on individual blocks and then transferring them to three panels. Twenty-five students in Grades 10 to 12 produced 48 fish.
The mural was installed May 20 on the outside wall of Andora Gallery & Studios on Main Street, which is owned by Peter MacWhirter. The wall faces Jubilee Street and the RBC building.
MacWhirter was delighted with the outcome.
"I'm really happy with it. When I look at it, I think of my adolescence and black light posters," he said. "Anything that's kind of fluorescent-looking with the black on it has that kind of quality. It is wonderful."
LRHS Arts teacher Libby Broadbent recalled a request came from MacWhirter last fall asking if the class would be interested in doing a mural on the side of his building.
"I thought it was a great idea, absolutely. I love doing those kinds of big projects with my kids," she said.
However, she wasn't sure that it would be something they could accomplish given COVID-19 restrictions.
The building had a frame installed on its side in 2011 and was initially used by a group to thank all the businesses in town for hanging flower baskets that made the town look nice. Since then, it has been used by various groups to advertise.
Former town councillor Heather Kelly used it most recently to promote her run in the mayoral election in October 2020. She donated her sign to Broadbent and her class for the mural project.
"I didn't know if we were going to pull it off. Then she gave me her political sign to use, so I decided we would give it a whirl and get the kids as far as we could. And if it didn't work, it didn't work," said Broadbent.
She decided on a fish theme believing it was fairly easy and would work well with the students' wide range of artistic skills.
"It didn't matter if a student did something that was really detailed and intricate, or if they just painted it by colours. For them, my only criteria was that it should have bright colours, and the fish needed to have an eye. This allowed everyone to enjoy it," she said.
The teacher cut the board into 48 pieces, so the students could work on it at the same time.
Most of the students finished their paintings prior to the school's shut down on April 28 under the latest provincial health regulations. Broadbent finished those that were incomplete. She also had to assemble them all for installation, a step in the process that she wished the students could have been a part of.
In the end, though, "It turned out beautiful, very colourful and very vivid," opined Broadbent.
Jenna Dagley, one of the Grade 10 students, said she enjoyed being a part of the project.
"I am so proud of everyone who painted a fish to make this mural possible. There are so many artistic people at LRHS and it's so nice to be able to create something to show off everyone's talent in this community," she said in a prepared statement.
The building was a shoe store for years, prior to MacWhirter purchasing it four years ago.
He picked out the building online while he was still working in Korea. His first impression of the exterior on Jubilee "was that it's a big empty wall that needs to be filled with something. It was a pretty ugly wall."
MacWhirter, who has being living in Liverpool full-time for the past year or so, now hopes that the class will continue to produce more works of art that can be displayed in that space, something Broadbent is not opposed to.
"The school is always willing to do anything for the community, and another mural is a possibility, but it is a lot of work to accomplish those types of projects," she said.
Meanwhile, Kelly, who runs the Queens Community Calendar Facebook page where the mural was first posted, reports there have been numerous comments on it.
"It is so colourful and adds so much to the downtown. It is such a great collaboration and everyone seems just so overjoyed with it," said Kelly.