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Stunning Virgil art installation complete

An idea put forth by the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre came to fruition Thursday with the installation of a large mural on the front of the Niagara Orchard and Vineyard Corp building

An idea put forth by the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre about 18 months ago came to fruition Thursday with the installation of a large mural on the front of the Niagara Orchard and Vineyard Corp building.

After the project was approved by the town, it took some time to raise the money to pay for the street-facing art project, and to work out the details and logistics. But once started around 9 a.m., the installation was completed in a matter of about four hours, creating a stunning display of a painting by local artist Ron Clavier, reproduced on 12 aluminum panels, and timed to be part of a Virgil beautification plan to coincide with the reconstruction on Niagara Stone Road.

The painting original is an oil on canvas, 30" by 36", called Day's End, which Clavier describes as the work day of a farmer ending "with exhaustion and the satisfaction of having made a valuable contribution.”

It took a team of people and skills to complete the installation, starting with painting one section of the building — passersby couldn’t help but notice the vivid blue, painted by The Scottish Painter, Tony McCafferty, on a yellow corrugated wall, which then needed time to cure, said Gail Kerr, an artist and volunteer with the Pumphouse.

Kerr, a retired interior designer with an extensive background working with contractors, was asked by the Pumphouse to take on the job of overseeing the art installation.

Also involved in the project were graphics designer Sonia Wilkinson, and The Printing House in St. Catharines. On-site Thursday were Terry Fleming, Frank Doolittle and Shane Fleming, experts in custom graphics installations. And it was all done with support from Arnie Lepp, owner of the Niagara Orchard and Vineyard building.

That it all came together in time for Thursday, which turned out to be a perfect day for the job, was good luck. “We had no idea what to expect in the way of weather,” said Kerr. Because the panels are thin aluminum — actually two layers, with vinyl in the middle — the work would have been too dangerous to carry out on a windy day, although it would have gone ahead if it had rained. But the day was calm, the sun was shining, and the men doing the installation were happy to work in T-shirts, when, as they said, at this time of year it could just as easily have been a time for jackets and gloves.

Clavier arrived part way through the process to admire the work they were doing, saying he was excited and pleased to see how well it was turning out.

His painting had to be adapted somewhat to fit the size and shape of the wall explained Kerr. “We had to finalize the drawing so that it didn’t change much from the original. And it was all done with Ron’s approval. The whole process has been a collaboration.”

The project also highlights, she added, “the important role the Pumphouse plays in bringing art to the community.”

For almost 30 years, the Pumphouse has fulfilled that role through exhibits, programs and successful projects to promote public art, such as the NOTL Hydro box beautification initiative, with the arts centre's mandate to “engage, enrich and celebrate the diverse and growing population through visual arts,”  Pumphouse board chair Lise Andreana reminded council when the Virgil mural was first discussed. This installation is seen as a next step, not only enhancing Virgil’s aesthetic appeal, she said, but also reminding “locals and visitors alike of the importance of agriculture and the visual arts in our community.”