Fred Harrison, mural artist 16September 2006
London (ON) artist Fred Harrison has been painting murals for twenty years. Mural styles vary with the subject and location, be it in a home, business or exterior wall.
Most of his outside murals are in small southern Ontario towns and are often community sponsored. His murals can be found in St Thomas, Toronto, Ottawa and as far west as Edmonton and now as far east as Sussex, NB!
One mural was being painted in Thorndale near London during a fall fair and the parade route was altered to pass by his work in progress - quite an honour. Some murals have an abstract appearance while others such as his products here are of a realist or natural style. His first mural in Sussex has a dairy theme set in the decade 1880-90 and the second mural reflects events around the arrival of the first train in 1860.
The dairy theme covers many aspects of farm and community life around agriculture. The focus is on the Provincial Dairy School of the era (one artistic liberty taken by Fred was to include the cream separator and its salesman reminding us that Sussex was chosen by Libella for its central office in sales and distribution for the Maritimes.
Cattle breeds included Ayrshires, Guernseys, Jerseys and Holstein-Friesen. This mural was painted free hand so that it could correspond to spectator influence! The people figures came from provincial archive photos thereby providing information to make appearances characteristic of the era. Later additions included Sussex Cheese and Butter plus the 4H logo (neither existed in 1890s nor the cream separator!). Every figure has a story.
The second mural shows the imaginary theme of the first train arriving in Sussex in 1860. The first sod was turned in 1853 and seven long years later the train arrived. (The Exhibition building was built in 1861 as reflected in the mural across Main Street.) There were very few buildings in Sussex at the time as the real centre was in Sussex Corner. Imagine the newspaper boy shouting “H McMonagle loses at the track!”
The artist again used some artistic liberty to include a later landscape of buildings. The locomotive is authentic to 1860-1872, being a wood burner. The artist included the traditional means of transportation –penny farthing bike, horse and wagon, wheelchair, perambulator with large wheels, hand car on the tracks all being authentic to the 1860s.
Looking at the people the observer sees emotional responses to the train arrival.
The background shows some later buildings. The Mills Eveleigh Mills building was a drygoods establishment with village office upstairs and library/reading room sharing the upper floor. On the right is an old blacksmith building and on the left is the tea room again showing artistic freedom, The Wallace building to the right of the blacksmith building. Do you recognize any of the personages painted into the landscape either from the era or today? Look for the historical episodes/stories in the aspects of this great mural.
The artist spends two-three weeks researching the setting and details to provide a degree of accuracy for each mural. Much of this mural reflects the 1880 decade and reveals the prosperity and people of the period. The artist completes a cartoon (draft) and submits it in a bid for the project and on approval is commissioned to do the work.
THANK YOU FRED FOR HELPING US TO LEARN AND APPRECIATE OUR HISTORY.