Mural behind Cornwall museum unveiled; showcases region’s history

St. Andrews West artist Alexandra MacDonald explains the depictions in her mural behind the Cornwall Community Museum on Saturday, Aug 28, 2021. MacDonald is studying painting and drawing at Concordia University in Montreal. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – City waterfront trail users are being greeted with a new panoramic mural detailing the rich and diverse history of the region.

The mural, done by St. Andrews West artist Alexandra MacDonald, was unveiled during a small ceremony Saturday morning (Aug. 28). It’s on the retaining wall behind the Cornwall Community Museum that’s also the museum’s fire exit.

The unveiling started with Town Crier Wes Libbey bursting from the fire exit door to read a proclamation from a scroll.

Town Crier Wes Libbey rings his bell before making a proclamation during the official unveiling of a mural depicting the history of the region on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021 in Cornwall, Ont. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

The painting starts with British Loyalist leader Sir John Johnson and then moves through brightly-coloured collage depicting slaves, United Empire Loyalists, the War of 1812, the Mohawks, the St. Lawrence River and basket weaving among others.

Cornwall Economic Development Project Coordinator Kat Rendek notes that the inclusive mural highlights “all who were here at the time” and she hopes it acts as a “touchstone” for people to venture into the museum to find out more.

Museum Associate Curator Don Smith adds that the mural is now used for the start of all the museum tours.

Mayor Glen Grant, MPP Jim McDonell and Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Chief Vanessa Adams also spoke before MacDonald took attendees on an explanatory tour of the mural.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, artist Alexandra MacDonald says it took her five weekends to complete the project after working with the city on the best fit for all the elements.

“We worked together to make it fit even better and to give the right space to the right moments on the mural and after that I just came, they had it all primed and ready to go. So I got the background the going with the blues, the colours, trying to map out where everything goes. And then just painting on the sketch lines, the figures of people making sure all the proportions are right. Stepping back, going forward, stepping back again and again, and then when that’s right, putting the colours on, the black lines and details, and then it’s done,” MacDonald says.

This was her biggest project to date. She was part of a mural club at Concordia University while in residence where the group did small walls in the residence building. “Nothing ever this big or all encompassing,” she laughs.

MacDonald says she had to step away for a few days after completing the mural because she’s her own worst critic on details. “Once I kind of remove myself from it and kind of let it all go and then come back and look at it I feel very proud of it and very happy with it in the end.”

As for her next project, MacDonald says she wants to get into historical illustration once she finishes final year at Concordia University in Montreal in painting and drawing.

“I love bringing especially local history to life. People react to it so much more when they can visually see the representation of it instead of just reading the words in a book. When you can see John Baker, when you can see the Mohawks and the sturgeon, it sticks in your mind so much more,” MacDonald says.

The mural behind the Cornwall Community Museum unveiled on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)