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Longtime Chemainus mural curator touches upon many career moments

Cim MacDonald retiring after 25 memorable years of keeping murals in peak condition
Luncheon group honouring Cim MacDonald, second on the right, for her longtime work as curator with the Festival of Murals Society. (Photo by Daphne Carlyle)

Cim MacDonald has given many aspects of the Chemainus mural project a new lease on life after 25 years as the curator.

“Her curator job involved repairing murals as needed with touch-up and sealing after each annual inspection tour,” noted Tom Andrews, the current president of the Chemainus Festival of Murals Society. “She also did partial and full restoration of murals when required based on age from 10 to 20 years if the original artist was not available.

“When Cim started as curator, there were 40 murals and statues. Today, there are 71 so her scope of work increased dramatically over 25 years.”

“It was an interesting job over the years,” MacDonald conceded.

The time has also passed very quickly and “it doesn’t seem like it,” she added of the 25 years doing the task.

“Sandy Clark was still around. She was the one who got me into it in a way, between her and Linda Tucker.”

Clark did three of the murals around town and one of the sculptures. She died in 2010.

MacDonald has also been an active artist, painting 10 murals as well as doing her curator job, including: The Telephone Company (1992); Passing the Torch (2006); two Emily Carr paintings on the Long House (2010); Compass, Keeper of Secrets and Sacred Cedar (2016); Kew Gardens Flagpole (2017); Mount Brenton Golf Course (2021) and Service Above Self on the Rotary bunker (2022).

Related story: MacDonald’s artistry superb, of course

“She was also a great ambassador taking the time to talk to everyone who stopped by to ask questions while she was working,” Andrews pointed out. “She cared about the murals and did an amazing job keeping them maintained, colourful and looking like the way they were originally painted.”

“I really enjoyed talking to the visitors,” said MacDonald. “The earlier days there were lots more tourists around. Most of the time I’d been working after hours, too.”

The initial murals were painted on the surface of buildings with large crowds watching.

“They just want to be able to communicate with somebody, the artist,” MacDonald indicated.

Since the murals are now done on plywood, frequently at the artists’ own homes or studios, that doesn’t happen anymore. “You miss that part of the connection,” conceded MacDonald.

However, with her golf course mural in 2021 she spent some time doing touch-ups after it was installed and kind of revived that element somewhat.

Travel was one of the unique perks that once went with the territory.

“They used to have mural conferences around the world,” MacDonald said.

As a result, she made trips to such places as Tasmania and Scotland, and the last one before COVID was in Newfoundland.

There were some interesting developments that led to a heavier workload for MacDonald, not the least of which was the time when a car crashed into the side of the Chemainus Coastal Credit Union building and damaged the Logging With Oxen mural.

“That was a big job for her,” said Andrews. “There was nothing to paint over. She had to do it from scratch.”

But in typical MacDonald fashion she did a phenomenal job and you can’t even tell the difference from the original, Andrews noted.

That was typical of the extremes MacDonald’s job would sometimes entail.

“Some years there wasn’t much to do and other years it was almost too much,” she laughed.

MacDonald is obviously going to miss the job, but other factors have made it more difficult.

“With this climate change, I’m happy,” she indicated. “I ended up with heat stroke a couple of times trying to work.”

Fortunately, MacDonald did not wind up suffering any injuries despite being in some precarious positions and heights to do the job.

“When I started, nobody trained me as such,” she summed up. “I learned a lot by doing some of the stuff.

“I had a pretty good time with the whole thing.”

Current and former Festival of Murals Society board members held a luncheon at Thai Pinto in Chemainus last Wednesday as a send-off for MacDonald.

Tricia Oldfield has taken over the position.


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Cim MacDonald at work on her first mural, The Telephone Company, in 1992. (Photo by Art Carlyle)
Cim MacDonald at work on mural touch-ups in her role as curator. (Photo by Art Carlyle)
Appreciation piece presented to Cim MacDonald at a luncheon last week. (Photos by Art Carlyle)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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