Burke Chamberlin says that he always imagined the wall of his Bridge Street building as an artist’s canvas and almost a year after Chamberlin approached local painter Arne Roosman in the grocery store with the idea, both men watched as it was mounted on the side of Chamberlin’s downtown building for everyone to enjoy.
“I didn’t want to be so direct so, when I saw Arne in the Foodland I asked if he knew anyone that might be able to do a mural,” Chamberlin says as he and Roosman watch the panels being attached to the building.
Roosman, as it turned out, knew the perfect artist for the job.
Roosman’s mural is delightfully huge and it chronicles the history of its location on Bridge Street.
“This is history as seen from this building, from this location,” Chamberlin explains. “This is the history of the York River. This is the history of this corner.”
Roosman and Chamberlin started working on the concept together and Roosman still has the paper with the first notes scrawled on it. It’s part of a show that is being opened to the public on June 26 from 10am to 8pm at 23E Bridge Street West. The show will include early sketches and all of the historical research that Roosman completed for the piece.
“The sequence of this is all in a plastic bag,” Roosman says as he points to a stack of papers that are bulging out of their packaging. “All this happens as you go and it doesn’t seem so elaborate.”
But it is an elaborate process. It took six months of work which at times was physically painful. Roosman worked on the massive panels by climbing up and down on scaffolding. When he worked from the top down his shoulders hurt and when he worked from the ground up his knees took a beating.
He jokes with Chamberlin about the toll it took and when asked if it took five years off his life Roosman says it probably added years,
Chamberlin and Roosman are joined by Dianne Eastman. She’s helping put together the pop-up show for June 26 and she’s been trying to get a group of artists and art supporters together to form a cooperative that will operate out of Chamberlin’s building. They’re working under the name “A Place for the Arts” and they’ve had some meetings, elected a steering committee and they’re now working on a structure to operate and pay for the space.
This is something that Chamberlin and Eastman have been working on together. Chamberlin sees the building as a good space for artists while Eastman says this is the best space in Bancroft for the arts. There is gallery space at street level with creative space upstairs.
“The bigger picture here is to have an arts centre for the community,” Chamberlin says.
Eastman hopes it will happen and says that those who have already shown an interest are looking to teach workshops, offer demos and to run a gallery. The building has so much potential and now with the huge new mural on the side and a beautiful boardwalk that winds people along the river – the space is inspiring.
Chamberlin says he wants to see a café operating with seating along the river and lots of artists working together to make this a space bursting with creativity.
The mural, commissioned by Chamberlin, is just one piece of a bigger vision and Roosman says it is a great credit to Chamberlin.
Chamberlin laughs saying that he wanted the building to be an arts centre so he figured he had to put-up or shut-up.
“I’m trying to lead by example,” Chamberlin says.
The example is a great new piece of public art that looks equally stunning from across the river or from the boardwalk in front of the mural. The detail is magnificent and this is certainly a piece of art that will draw attention for years to come.
The Bridge Street Mural is now installed and for those interested in seeing the process, the conceptual sketches, working drawings and small scale paintings; these will be on display on June 26 from 10am to 8pm.
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