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article imageLooking after one of the world’s largest outdoor art galleries Special

By Igor I. Solar     Feb 1, 2012 in Entertainment
Victoria - There are 40 murals in the town of Chemainus, BC, five of which were painted thirty years ago and still remain crisp and bright thanks largely to the dedicated efforts of artist and photographer Cim MacDonald, curator of the collection.
In a separate report Digital Journal showed part of collection of stunning murals enriching the walls of Chemainus, a small coastal town in the Cowichan Valley of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. This time the focus is on one of the artists, author of two of the murals, and about her work as the curator of the collection.
Cim MacDonald  curator of the Chemainus murals since 1996. (Picture taken from a photograph).
Cim MacDonald, curator of the Chemainus murals since 1996. (Picture taken from a photograph).
Cim MacDonald was born in Scotland, but she has been a BC resident since age 7. After graduating with a major in Arts, she developed her photography and artistic skills in Vancouver Island by working in Victoria, Crofton and now in the beautiful town of Chemainus, BC.
In 1992, MacDonald was the author of mural N° 32 “The Telephone Company – Circa 1915”. The painting, located in one of the main streets in Chemainus is one of the few tri-dimensional works of art in Chemainus. It has an old bicycle leaning against the mural. The original work also had a low white picket fence and white wooden flower boxes. The painting depicts the Victorian porch of the first telephone service company in Chemainus, which started in 1908. Two ladies stand by the door next to the real wooden steps in front of the office. They are supervisor Daisy Bonde and Sophia Horton, the first paid operator of the 30-telephone exchange serving the Chemainus community in the beginning of the 20th Century.
Chemainus Mural # 32   The Telephone Company - Circa 1915  painted in 1992 by Cim MacDonald.
Chemainus Mural # 32, "The Telephone Company - Circa 1915" painted in 1992 by Cim MacDonald.
MacDonald has been the curator of the Chemainus Murals since 1996. Since her appointment, in 2006 she painted mural N° 38 “Passing the Torch”, she has repainted seven murals and repaired many paintings and sculptures. In 2012 she will repaint the eighth mural and will be a consultant on up-coming mural number 42.
 Clematis   Best in Show  Sooke Fine Arts Show  2009 (Courtesy of Cim MacDonald.
"Clematis", Best in Show, Sooke Fine Arts Show, 2009 (Courtesy of Cim MacDonald.
Cim MacDonald
Cim is a signature member of the Northwest Watercolour Society and an Associate Member of the Federation of Canadian Artists. Her paintings can be found in collections around the world including those of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and the former Lt. Governor of BC. She is a member of the Association of Professional Photographers of Canada where she was awarded Best in Show trophies in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Other awards include Silver and Gold medals from the Canadian Association for Photographic Art, Best in Show (“Clematis”) at Vancouver Island's prestigious 2009 Sooke Fine Arts Show and at the Sidney’s Fine Arts Show in 2011 (“Reluctant Bride”).
 Reluctant Bride   by Cim MacDonald  Best in Show at the Sidney’s Fine Arts Show  2011 (Screengrab...
"Reluctant Bride", by Cim MacDonald, Best in Show at the Sidney’s Fine Arts Show, 2011 (Screengrab from
Digital Journal had the pleasure of interviewing Cim MacDonald on her duties as a curator of the famous collection of murals in Chemainus and what it means to her from an artistic and professional perspective.
IIS: What are your responsibilities as the curator of the Chemainus Mural Collection?
CIM: Originally, since 1996, my job was to check the murals occasionally for problems such as pealing and chipping, etc. Since there was only 13 years since the mural project had started there wasn't the deterioration that there has been in more recent years. Some murals were done on poor surfaces which had to be taken off and new surfaces put on - the original artists came back to repaint those. In one occasion when the repair didn't last and the surface had to come off once again the artist didn't want to do it again and I got the job. In another instance we had a similar problem and the original artist came back to repaint. The same artist came back last year and repainted her wall once again due to fading. My job was to work with her and procure equipment and supplies.
IIS: Do you have problems with the artwork caused by vandalism?
CIM: Today we have a little more problem with vandals and mostly to the sculptures. Since I have been the curator, I have only had to repair 2 instances of graffiti on the walls, a wooden sculpture has taken more of a beating and my bicycle was damaged along with the original fence that was around my mural - it was decided just to take the fence away and I replaced the bicycle. No damage has been done to it since. We also had problems with careless drivers; one drove over the sidewalk and hit a sniper in a sculpture, another ran into the wall taking out a small chunk.
IIS: How is the work of the artists funded?
CIM: Some of the money comes from government grants, private funds, and lately the owners of the walls have funded the artwork on their walls. In the beginning one of the artists wanted to do a mural for no pay - he saw it as a great opportunity to get known. The only other artist I know doing it for free is Lurene Haines. Lurene will paint mural number 41 which is expected to show a gathering at Mount Brenton, now a Golf Course near Chemainus, which will include women, men, children and First Nations people in costume appropriate for the late 1800s. The funding for the Curator’s position comes from local government grants.
IIS: How does the BC weather affect the murals?
CIM: The murals that fair the worst are the ones on South facing walls. I have recommended no murals to be painted on South walls unless the colors are more fade resistant such as blues and browns rather than reds, or if there is some kind of protection such as a large overhang.
Other major problem we have is moss growing mainly on walls that are cement block or bricks. Our wet weather in winter creates a lot of moss between the bricks of some walls. I have been involved with trying to solve this problem. The board approved the use of a product called B-72, an acrylic polymer, used as a protective coating which was put on the walls in 2010; it did a great job of refreshing the walls. This is where mural conferences are great as they discuss this kind of problem and what another mural town might have done to fix it.
IIS: What has meant to you personally being the curator of the Chemainus Murals for over 15 years?
CIM: My job has been a joy over all the years I have been doing it. Since I have done it for so many years I have been able to document all the changes that have happened over time. I take pictures of all the things that need to be done at the beginning of the year and give a report to the board outlining what I think needs the most attention and how long it might take. This helps them out with their budget for the year. I am getting ready to do that again as soon as our weather breaks a little (stops raining).
One of the perks of my job has been to attend mural conferences in places like 29 Palms, CA, Moose Jaw, SK, Tasmania and Scotland. I get to talk with many different people and technical specialists on the problems that come up in different weather areas, the products used and on ways to save our walls.
After chatting with artist and photographer Cim MacDonald about her passionate work as the curator of the impressive collection of one of world’s largest outdoor art galleries, one gets the impression that the magnificent display of artwork adorning Chemainus is in good hands and that future visitors will enjoy the murals as much as visitors to the charming little town in the Cowichan Valley have been relishing them for the past 30 years.
More about Chemainus BC, Cim MacDonald, Curator, Mural art, Photography
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