My Take on Snow Lake - July 17, 2015

Historic Herb Lake mural in place

The residents of Herb Lake Landing installed a stunning new mural this month, and unlike the one in the Lawrie Marsh Hall, this one is displayed proudly for all to see and enjoy.

Situated directly across from the Landing’s “Gathering Place,” the O’Toole original fresco is 24 feet long, eight feet high and beautifully depicts scenes from the area’s vast and rich heritage.

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Commissioned by the community’s residents in 2014, the mural was drawn and painted under the creative hand of well-known northern artist, Mike O’Toole. Like the Landing’s residents, O’Toole reveres the area’s history and has an obvious respect for those from our past who worked hard to settle and develop the north.

He and wife Barb were on hand during a small community luncheon, last Friday, which served to unveil the mural for all to enjoy.

Originally from Moncton, New Brunswick, O’Toole has been painting since he was six years old; he appears to be in his early 60s and has lived in The Pas for 35 years.  He worked for Tolko from 1980 till 2003, painting in his leisure time and has taken a more active interest in his artwork since retirement.

O’Toole started painting murals in The Pas about 12 years ago and his work is visible throughout the community as well as in The Pas Library.  His work is mostly wildlife and landscape, but it is obvious that he has a real talent for the “big picture.”

For the Herb Lake Landing mural, he worked from historic photographs supplied by Jim Corman and Peter Dunlop. He painted these on primed “sign board” using acrylic paint and finished it with six coats of weather/vandal guard. The mural took several months to complete, working at it for four or five hours, every other day. He says that he really enjoyed painting the Landing Mural, as they gave him their ideas and free rein to depict them.

The fresco follows a transportation timeline featuring a steam engine making its way from The Pas to Wekusko Siding, a team of horses and wagon, which drove from the siding to Herb Lake Landing, boats that went from the landing to Herb Lake (Herb Town) in the summer, horses and a bombardier in the winter, and the Laguna/Rex Mine, as well as a scene from Herb Town itself.  Also featured are a couple of miners, a loon, and a walleye … as important to life in the north then as they are today.

Sitting down with Jim Corman at the unveiling, he identified the two miners who are depicted as Charlie Olson and Louie Stoltz. He said the Herb Lake street scene featured Maxwell’s Beer Parlour, the OK Café, which was then owned by Scotty Anderson, was bought by Albert Corman, and then finally Gertie Calcutt. Ralph Bryenton’s boat and Pete Durand and his boat are off to one side, as is a Bombardier owned by Corman and his brother Gilbert. Corman explained that O’Toole didn’t let them see the painting until it was finished and that they were completely amazed and thoroughly pleased at what he had done.

Once it arrived at the landing, the mural sat in storage for several weeks before being placed.  Early last month, several residents installed the painting at the “Gathering Place” under the careful guidance of Corman. They were: Jim Corman, Al MacDougall, Pete Roberts, Shaun Vincent, Fred Bridgeman, Brian Shapka, Dave Roberts, and Brad Spencer. Additionally, Wayne Huculak, a regional consultant for recreation and regional services, and Lori Forbes, an extension co-ordinator with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, worked with the community on the grant applications that funded the project, which included approximately $3,500 from the Heritage Grant Program and $2,500 from Hometown Manitoba.

Residents advise that people are welcome to come out and see the new mural at any reasonable hour and request that speed limits and the peaceful and pristine nature of Herb Lake Landing be respected.  

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