General Amherst High School murals to receive makeover

 

By Joel Charron

Local artist, Jason Dyrda is excited to start a project that will bring an important part of Amherstburg, back to life.

The 1812 Alive Bicentennial committee announced that the murals that are displayed on the west walls of General Amherst High School would be restored after nearly 45 years.

 

Artist Jason Dyrda, 1812 project assistant Sarah Van Grinsven and mural project facilitator Paul Hertel stand next to the murals Friday, January 6.

“It’s very much an honor to be part of this,” said Dyrda. “The working challenge and intricate medium of the mosaic type material is very exciting and rewarding to me. To be able to bring back to life the giant size murals as public art is significant.”

The nine outdoor giant murals that depict periods of time from 1812 to French settlement up to the 1967 Centennial year will undergo the restoration this spring.

Dyrda said he has been taking art lessons since he was eight years old and completed his first mural at 16. He said that restoring the General Amherst murals would be one of his largest projects.

“Everything else has been preparing for something like this,” he said.

Dyrda stated the murals would need some patching in some areas before they could be repainted.  He also mentioned the murals will be covered with a protective seal to preserve them and protect them against vandalism.

“If the weather works out in our favor, the better it works out for everyone. I think everyone is anxious,” said Dyrda. “It should last another 50-100 years.”

The restorations are expected to be completed by the summer, in time for the Roots to Boots festival on Aug. 3-5.

“Both designer John Oliver and the artisan plasterer Bruno Vendrasco will be pleased to hear of this 1812 Bicentennial project to restore their work”, said Paul Hertel, the project facilitator. “The mural project both reclaims and showcases our local and regional history. The results will allow the viewer to see the stories with color and clarity.”

Dyrda mentioned he doesn’t anticipate any issues working on the murals while school is in session, however, he does expect curiosity to peak peoples interest.

“There will probably be a lot of people stopping to ask questions,” said Dydra.

Hertel said the mural location along Laird Ave. is a “great location” because of its high traffic volume.

“We’ve got a wonderful streetscape and it’s next to Fort Malden,” said Hertel.

He also mentioned that plaques would also be installed next to the murals explaining their meaning. Hertel noted the first six murals were originally installed during an expansion project at General Amherst in 1964-65 and the remaining three put up during another expansion in the 1966-67-time period.

Funding from Canadian Heritage, the Greater Essex County District School Board and many in-kind donations from the private sector have made the restoration project possible. Sarah Van Grinsven, War of 1812 project assistant, said the cost of the project is approximately $50,000 but only $20,000 in cash is actually being spent with the rest being in-kind donations.

A graduate of General Amherst, Van Grinsven said she is learning more about the history of the murals through the restoration and stated that this project is important to the town.

“We need to put a lot more pride into our town and the role we played in helping Canada become Canada,” stated Van Grinsven.

 

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