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Painting the town red … and other colours

The Elmira Art Exhibit is in full swing for the summer. Run by the Elmira Business Improvement Area (BIA) and the Township of Woolwich, the exhibit aims to showcase ten public art pieces displayed in various outdoor locations around the downtown core.

Through one large mural and nine eight-by-eight-inch print displays, organizers hope artists will convey the different scenes and stories one may get while living in small town Elmira. During their call for artists, one question was asked: “What does Elmira mean to you?”

“Whether or not you live in Elmira you may be familiar with the street life, festivals and farmers’ market. You may also appreciate all the things locally produced and the community experience in this unique town,” wrote Jenna Morris, economic development and tourism officer for Woolwich Township. “If you grew up here you may have fond memories to share. Now is the time to tell us: What does Elmira mean to you?”

Stephanie Scott, the artist behind the large mural being painted on the side of the Sip ‘N Bite Restaurant, her piece was a collaboration between herself and the Elmira BIA.

“This was somewhat collaborative with the BIA,” said Scott. “I submitted a design, which they liked, but they wanted something that was a little closer to other stuff that I had in my portfolio.”

“They wanted something that was a little more scenic, and spoke to this area, and what it’s like,” said Scott. “So the scene kind of evolved from the female figure, Mother Earth as you could call her, and her hair turns into the landscape, which goes from very organic, into a more structured agricultural landscape at the end.”

Those same themes of what makes Elmira unique can be seen throughout the nine printed displays put up around the community. For Michael Brown, whose painting is of a grandfather playing hockey with his grandkids, the history and local ties behind the piece are very real.

“That particular painting was a commissioned piece. There’s a little bit of a story behind it. The person I did the painting for, his grandfather passed away. And that’s who the adult is in the picture.” said Brown. “They were going through some of the old photos, and they found this picture of them when they were all young. And, you know, it was emotional.

“It kind of connects to Elmira, because it’s a hockey town,” continued Brown. “If you can find some ice in the wintertime, throw your skates on and slide around, it brings back a lot of those memories.”

While selecting the artist behind the mural was done in a more traditional way, the nine pieces chosen as prints were done through a mass call for submissions. That means the news that their submission was accepted came as a surprise to the hopeful artists.

“I was excited – it was a good feeling,” explained Brown. “My wife grew up in Elmira, and we lived there for 15 years and raised our kids there. So it was nice. It was a good feeling.”

There is also a variety of styles on display, from Scott’s bright and punchy mural to Brown’s painterly brushstrokes – the diverse styles also convey a sense of Elmira.

“It depends on the project because I don’t have a set style,” said Scott. “I do like to use a lot of bright colors, and a fairly simplified palette. I like really clean old color blocking. And anything that looks maybe a little bit retro, I tend to gravitate towards. This piece, for example, is kind of 70s.”

“My normal paintings are airbrushed, and I do photo-realism,” explained Brown. “But when I do commissioned paintings, people ask me to make it painterly. And that’s what this is. It’s painterly, you can see the brushstrokes.”

“Some are fun and bright, some old fashioned… There’s a nice mix. They all showcase Elmira in some way,” said Morris.

With Scott putting the finishing touches on her mural, and the nine other pieces already installed, this summer is looking to be a feast for the eyes.

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