"Art for the People" mural at library celebrates the history of St. Stephen
by Sari Green, St. Croix Courier
ST. STEPHEN – The new “Art for the People” mural was unveiled on the St. Croix Public Library Monday, May 17. The mural, painted by artist Geoff Slater, shows images of the Town of St. Stephen when it was first incorporated in 1871. One-hundred-and-fifty years later, the town celebrated its birthday, and what better way to celebrate than to unveil this beautiful piece of art?
One would expect a mural of this size would take an extended period to complete. Slater said it only took a couple of months for him to create this work of art, and that included the time he spent doing research. The research included looking at old documents and photos, with which Slater received much help from local historian Darren McCabe. Slater said the biggest problem was “nailing down exactly what time frame” they would use, and where to go with the overall design. Ultimately, it was decided the mural would depict the period between St. Stephen’s 1871 incorporation and the great fire of 1877.
Slater, who has been an artist for approximately 30 years, gave a speech at the mural unveiling, speaking about the history of the town, as well as what was happening around the world during this time period.
“At home, we were at the beginning of a second, and more mature, industrial revolution. Everyone knew it was happening, and wanted to join it,” said Slater in his speech.
Slater spoke about Canada’s Confederation, and it was just four years later St. Stephen became incorporated. Slater called the mural “Genesis”, saying this is when things came together, and when a new community “decided to take on the world”. He also spoke about the resiliency of the town and its residents, particularly following the fire that destroyed many businesses, railroad structures, wharves, and homes.
“Indeed, it was difficult to piece together what the town even looked like for this project, as most of the photos of this era burned. It was only with substantial input from the brain of Darren McCabe that we were able to get this far,” said Slater.
The mural was painted using acrylic paints, and Slater said it is lightfast and will hold up to all types of weather. He used a high-quality water-based sealer to complete the project. Slater also had a bit of help in painting the mural from an unlikely source; his daughter. He said she loves horses, so it seemed appropriate that he ask for her input to create this part of the mural.
“I had to go to the top. She’s a horse expert,” said Slater.