Work on new mural underway in St. Stephen
by Heather Knight, St. Croix Courier
ST. STEPHEN – Established local artist Geoff Slater is lending his talents to Charlotte County once again with his most recent mural in St. Stephen.
Slater has just finished constructing the 24-foot high and more than 40-foot wide sign board wall at the location of the mural in downtown St. Stephen.
The sign board will ensure the mural’s longevity in the St. Stephen community, lasting 20-25 years.
“Last year I did a smaller one at the library,” said Slater. “Heather (Donahue, co-ordinator at St. Stephen Area Chamber of Commerce) and I liked working together, so she commissioned me to do this larger mural.”
In 2003, Slater painted his first mural – a depiction of Kingsbrae Garden and the town wharf – on the Saint Andrews water tower. The project involved substantial physical labour due to the grand size of the wall.
Not only was it his first attempt at a mural, but also the biggest art piece he’s completed to date.
“Turns out I’m good at that … I’m good at working big,” he said.
The mural in downtown St. Stephen has been placed in Slater’s hands and he’s been given the creative freedom to paint his interpretation of the waterfront.
“It’s a nice accent wall to make a splash,” he said. “It can’t just be anything, they do have guidelines. I aim to make sure as many people as possible love it. I suppose, if I had time to stop and think about it, there might be some pressure.
“The stress sinks in after you’re done.”
He’s called New Brunswick home for more than 20 years.
“(Charlotte County) is a unique place for art,” he said. “What keeps bringing us back is the diversity.”
Well-known for his line paintings made using one continuous line that never touches or crosses, he describes the line as a thread that ties everything together. He aims to achieve a visual representation of that tie within his mural.
“My hope is it will feel like a pleasant celebration of how beautiful the riverfront is here,” he said.
Though we won’t know what Slater has in store for the mural until his final creation is revealed, it’s safe to say it will become a focal point in the Town of St. Stephen.
He plans to include depictions of plein air painters (those who paint outdoors) within his mural.
“A painting within a painting … a couple of little subtle things in the mural,” he explained.
Plein air painters must be focused, painting rather quickly to prevent the ever-changing weather from disrupting or ruining their work.
Simone Ritter, a plein air painter, painted with vibrant strokes and bold colours, greatly reflecting who she was as a person.
Ritter was admired and loved within her community and remains that way since her passing in March of this year.
“I’d known Simone for 20 years,” said Slater. “I just thought it would be nice to paint her in this mural. It’s appropriate to have her in this.”
“I want to tell the stories of this place. Not only do I love doing (murals), I think I love doing them from here. It’s a nice feeling for an artist to feel a part of the community, it makes it a real honour.”
Like many artists, Slater has a certain work flow he follows and says that he doesn’t mind painting this mural on his own. If his daughter, who is also becoming a talented painter, wanted to collaborate with him, he would be more than happy to work together someday.
“We’ve left her alone (with art) … had we pushed her toward it; she may have never loved it on her own.”
Working close to home is special. He feels fortunate that he gets to work in the community he loves, telling stories that will stretch beyond generations.
“It’s just starting to look like something. I’m lucky to be doing something I love doing, it’s very rewarding,” he said.
Kathy Bockus, MLA for St. Croix, was able to assist the Downtown Business Improvement Area secure money from the Community Investment Fund to see this project completed.
Because the wall took him a week longer than anticipated to complete and his work schedule is entirely dependent on unpredictable weather, his estimation of completion by Chocolate Fest may not be entirely feasible.
“I was hoping to have it done for Chocolate Fest. I’m still hoping for Chocolate Fest, but I’m not going to make any promises,” said Slater.