It’s hard to drive down County Road #2 through Riverside Heights and not see the grand artwork that is the Church Mural.
The mural is just one of 17 erected between 2001 and 2005. The murals were created “to illustrate South Dundas’s rich heritage and culture.”
The Church Mural, originally created by Mike Kelly in 2003, is a compilation of local churches, past and present.
In 2009, the South Dundas Mural Committee came together in response to the dismantling of the Iroquois Point Mural. The committee’s purpose is to restore murals if necessary and if possible.
According to Jane Cox, spokesperson for South Dundas Murals, “Last year we did lose one mural but by using reserved mural funds, five murals were restored leaving us with 12 that needed some help.”
She went on to say that, “The amount of money needed for immediate art restoration of some of the pieces exceeded the amount budgeted by our local municipality. A community group came forward in hopes of maintaining these works of art, thus champions of a mural was born.”
Champions are people or groups who are willing to financially back the restoration. This includes artist fees and supplies.
The South Williamsburg Township Recreation Association (SWTRA) is the original champion of the Church Mural, lobbying for its initial construction. This group is once again lobbying for the mural, but this time for its survival.
Keith and Linda Robinson, members of the SWTRA, reported that it has taken three years of fundraising to secure the funds required for the restoration. Keith estimates that the restoration of the mural will be about $4,500. The final tally will come when the project is complete.
While the Robinson’s and the SWTRA are providing the funds for the restoration project, the South Dundas Mural Committee has been responsible for finding an artist willing to do the restoration.
Here enters John Ellenberger to lend his talent. Ellenberger was the original artist for two of the South Dundas murals. The Memorial Mural for the Iroquois Legion and the History of Agriculture Mural for the Williamsburg IOOF Hall were both completed by Ellenberger in 2003.
When asked why he decided to restore the Church Mural, Ellenberger replied with a smile, “someone’s gotta do it.”
While discussing the work to be done Ellenberger gave credit to Kelly’s use of automotive paints when doing the original. He believes that this is why the mural has “held up pretty good” since its creation.
Ellenberger will be using water-based paints to restore the painting, but promises the changes will flow seamlessly with the original.
While Ellenberger will need to do work on the mural at its location on County Road #2, he has taken down two pieces from the lower right side of the mural.
He is working diligently on redoing these two sections completely as they were the most affected by water damage. Ellenberger is working out of the Robinson’s garage at their home in Riverside Heights.
When asked how they plan to protect the mural going forward, the Robinson’s reported that they will be building a roof over the mural that covers the front and back. The SWTRA is also providing the funds for this part of the project.
As for Ellenberger, he estimates that the work left to do will take just over a week to complete. He will then be driving back to his home in Alberta where he has additional jobs to complete.
In addition to murals, Ellenberger also uses his talent for motorcycles, trucks, cars, helmets, and portraits.
The Church Mural is not the only one with a champion. The New Canadians Mural is being championed by the Kolff Family. The Health Spa Mural is being championed by Mary Steele. The Caldwell Mural is being championed by Magnus Restoration of Iroquois. The WWII Homecoming Mural may have a new champion as well!
According to Cox, the “McIntosh Country Inn & Conference Centre will champion the McIntosh Apple [mural] and, with weather permitting, restoration may start next week.”
Unfortunately, not all the murals can be saved. The Aerial View of Morrisburg Mural is one of those “being allowed to age gracefully” and eventually taken down.
Cox reports that “hard decisions remain for our two remaining murals ‘North Side-Main Street’ on the west side of Giant Tiger and ‘South Side-Main Street’ on Upper Canada Playhouse.”
When asked if there were plans to create new murals, Cox said “There are not any plans for this group to initiate new murals but with the completed restoration and maintenance it does give our community an additional five year window to enjoy this collection.”
“We recognize these murals are not going to be with us forever but until something else comes forward let’s use these pieces of art to showcase our area.”