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Latest Botwood mural a giant thank you card for essential workers

Artists Melissa Francis (left) and Marshall Borland recently finished a mural in Botwood thanking essential workers for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicholas Mercer/SaltWire Network
Artists Melissa Francis (left) and Marshall Borland recently finished a mural in Botwood thanking essential workers for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicholas Mercer/SaltWire Network — Nicholas Mercer
BOTWOOD, N.L. —

A small crowd gathered behind the old machine shop building in Botwood earlier this week. Parked just beyond the centrefield fence in one of the town’s ballfields, half a dozen cars and their occupants were there to observe the finishing touches being put on a mural.

In front of them, artists Marshall Borland and Melissa Francis were applying a last bit of paint.

The exterior of the wall of the machine shop in the central Newfoundland community has been turned into a large thank you to essential workers for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it is important just to give respect to people in Newfoundland who have been doing everything,” said Borland, who designed the mural. “I think they’ve been doing a really good job of keeping the numbers of COVID (cases) down.”

The mural sets its simple "thank you" message against a colourful backdrop of soft tones, and features a doctor with angel wings.

“Originally, we weren’t going to put any colour on the wall, but it looked so bare,” said Francis.


There were some finishing touches that needed to be done before Marshall Borland and Melissa Francis could sign off on their latest mural in Botwood. — Nicholas Mercer/SaltWire Network
There were some finishing touches that needed to be done before Marshall Borland and Melissa Francis could sign off on their latest mural in Botwood. — Nicholas Mercer/SaltWire Network


The result was a striking image, one which immediately catches the eye and is easily seen from the road that enters Botwood’s downtown core.

But even before it was a finished product, the mural was a source of appreciative interest.

“The kids really enjoy watching this stuff get done because it is different,” said Botwood Mural Arts Society chair Trudy Stuckless. “They work with a lot of spray paint.”

Finishing the large, bright thank you to essential workers wasn’t without its challenges.

At multiple times over the past week, Borland and Francis had to wait out thunderstorms before they could continue their work. One day, they arrived on site to find a large pool of water around their scaffolding.


“I’ve heard from a lot of people in the town that this year they really needed something, (but) we didn’t know if we were going to do anything (with respect to a mural) because of the restrictions." — Trudy Stuckless


One evening, they used floodlights and a generator so they could work into the early morning.

As murals and Botwood become more synonymous, each summer brings with it the expectation of a new piece of art appearing in a different part of town.

However, the pandemic looked like it might prevent that from happening this year, but as some of the COVID-19 regulations were relaxed, there was still an obvious desire to see something new painted in town.

As a result, the mural arts society asked Borland and Francis if they’d be interested in making something happen.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people in the town that this year they really needed something, (but) we didn’t know if we were going to do anything because of the restrictions,” said Stuckless. “We saw a lot of cities and towns were doing COVID murals and we said, 'Let’s see if we can do one.'”

The finished work, with its hopeful message, is definitely in keeping with our times.

Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network


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