Eganville – The history of the village is being told in art with a series of mural projects and paintings to be installed in the spring.

While the snow is still on the ground, several Bonnechere Valley artists are creating beautiful paintings and murals which will tell the story of the village in a history and tourism initiative. Sponsored through an approved grant proposal which will be announced at a later date, the project is under the coordination of the Bonnechere Arts and Historical Society (the Bonnechere Museum.)

“This is to acknowledge our history,” Tracey Sanderson, the project lead for the initiative, said. “We are losing landmarks and this is about commemorating our history.”

Having grown up in the area, she returned recently and has become involved in the museum, as well as being elected as a Bonnechere Valley councillor. She said having a project like this is a good way to celebrate the area, encourage tourism and bring some life into the local economy after the COVID lockdowns. Hiring local was a big part of this.

“It is encouraging our creative community,” she said. “We want to support the artistic community.”

It is also wonderful to see the diverse talent in the community and newcomers to the area who are bringing talent and creativity with them, she said. This project lends itself to not only tourism by providing information and a scenic walking tour but also supporting the local economy, she said.

“This is hopefully the beginning of great things to come,” Ms. Sanderson added.

While the grant funding covers the painting projects, there will also be some fundraising done for other aspects, including the placing of the panels depicting old buildings.

The unveiling for the mural and panel project will likely be either in May or for Canada Day, she said.

At Chris Peltzer’s studio on Lake Clear, a large eight foot square mural was being painted by Mrs. Peltzer and her friend and artist colleague, Beverly Lewis. It will hang on the Bonnechere Museum outdoor wall, visible to people driving on Highway 60 (Bonnechere Street) from Renfrew.

“These are things the museum holds dear, like the cedar barns, great outbuildings, the Fourth Chute, the Bonnechere River, the geo-heritage,” Mrs. Peltzer said. “You throw everything in and it meets at the crossroads.”

It had been a busy week for the pair as they primed the surface and did the work, which would likely take another week to complete with the final details of flowers and delicate touches. Doing a project like this is something neither had attempted before, but from their laugh and paint-splattered clothes, it was evident they were having a lot of fun in the process.

“I’ve never painted anything this large before,” Mrs. Peltzer said. “The only thing similar was the mural in the arena and that was in two panels. It was on canvas on mahogany.”

“I think when I was a teenager, I might have done something half this size, but nothing like this,” laughed Ms. Lewis.

The project is huge, taking up a substantial portion of the studio. For the final touches it was propped up with the artists finishing some of the details to add dimension to the mural.

“Because it is a concept piece of art it has elements which are more graphic and we are doing the details like flowers,” Ms. Lewis said.

Adding the details will make it beautiful and very personal they both agreed with a mural of this size, there is a lot of room for details in the various aspects of Bonnechere Valley which are being depicted. As well, there will be a section with gorgeous fall colours to depict one of the very beautiful seasons of the year in the area.

“And we will bring in appropriate colours for what I call the nature’s bounty corner,” Ms. Lewis said.

“It is gratifying to watch it build,” added Mrs. Peltzer

Even though they are both experienced artists, the mural takes a lot of work. The mural is painted with high quality outdoor housepaint to make it last and the surface it is painted on is almost an aluminum backing.

“We had to scuff it up and prime it,” Mrs. Peltzer said. “It is not a medium we are used to.”

The huge advantage to this surface is the 8-foot by 4-foot panels are light enough to be moved. If they were a plywood-type surface they would be very hard to move, she noted.

“It is two pieces, so we could work and put it on the floor to reach some spots,” Ms. Lewis, who is also known as the Fairy Firkin, shared. “But we are way too old to be on our knees.

“I did two days working on the floor and said I won’t be able to dance for Stone Fence if I keep this up,” she joked.

Although she is a tad more familiar with this medium since she paints with acrylics, for Mrs. Peltzer who paints with oils it was a totally different feeling.

“It takes a character on all of its own,” she said. “It dries to the touch quickly, but it takes time to cure.”

The mural was primed with exterior paint and then they mixed colours all day to get ready for the next step.

Having the art work done by people who live in the community is another aspect to the project and one both women are thankful for.

“They wanted it to be people who live in Bonnechere Valley working on it,” Mrs. Peltzer said.

Having something that will attract the community and be visible to tourists coming by is a great project to be a part of, they both agreed.

“We are hoping it will all be done and ready for early May to be installed,” Mrs. Peltzer said. “It will take some time to cure and can’t go outdoors before that.”

History Panels

Nearby, Laurel Cook was also hard at work painting panels which will be displayed throughout the village and township depicting historical spots of interest. However, unlike her fellow artists, she is very familiar with this medium and is the one who introduced the technique to them.

“I’ve done about 15 murals like this in Mississippi Mills,” she said. “The great thing is it doesn’t delaminate or rust. It doesn’t lose colour. I’ve had some up for 10 years and they look like they were painted yesterday.”

A relative newcomer to the area, she brings with her not only the knowledge of her many years working on art projects and with artists associations and art shows, but also a lot of enthusiasm. A very youthful retiree, she moved to the Lake Clear area from Clayton, built her retirement home and now is excited about being part of the local artistic scene. With a background as president of the Almonte and Area Artists Association, she wants to bring some ideas which have worked in other communities to Eganville and Bonnechere Valley and is excited about liaising with other artists.

“I’ve worked with this material so much, I’m very familiar with it,” she said of the outdoor panels and murals.

Her panels are being done in sepia and although she may never have seen some of the buildings in person she is painting, for many are long gone – either torn down or burned – she is happy to bring them back through art. Using old photographs, she is painting the old buildings on large panels which show Eganville and other spots, such as the old radar base at Foymount, as they use to be. Each panel will be placed at the location where the building once stood.

“These projects are all connected,” she said. “The one thing they are doing is telling the history of Eganville and the area.”

Starting with 12 panels, she hopes one day the project will be expanded to many more and this will add interest as people can do a walking tour of the history and learn more about Eganville.

Local artist Genevieve Townsend is working on a large map which will also have paintings of the different locations. With a part for Eganville as well as other parts of Bonnechere Valley, it is a way to tell the story of the community, Ms. Cook said.

“Having the information and it laid out for a walking tour is a great way for people to learn more,” she said. “Genevieve is doing 12 on the map and I am doing plaques for it and we will leave space on the map for more.

The enthusiasm Ms. Cook has for her new community is catching. One fascinating personal project she did when arriving in the area, which was in various states of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was taking a driving tour exploring the area with her husband and they were fascinated by all the churches.

“So, I painted the steeples,” she said. “That was my own personal project.”

It is only the beginning of what she has planned. A military retiree – she retired 20 years ago as one of the two top ranked women of her generation – she has the organizational skills, the experience and the enthusiasm to start some exciting projects like a studio tour and some other concepts incorporating tourism to the area. She sees great potential in the area for some artistic collaboration, she said.

“There is a lot of talent here,” she remarked.