A giant garden blooms downtown


The husband-and-wife team of Don and Terry Clendenning saw their giant mural affixed to the south-facing brick wall of the edifice at the corner of Queen and William Streets in downtown Sturgeon Falls. The five panel 8×20-foot mural went up on July 6, and it’s been getting a lot of attention.

The painting, titled Rose’s Garden, is part of the Sturgeon Falls Beautification mural project, the latest offering, and is an homage to Pete Senecal’s mother, Rose. Senecal was the owner of the building until just recently. The rural scene features lots of activity, children running and playing with their dogs, kites flying, gardening, flowers –a bright reminder of the simple childhood joys of northern country life.

Don started painting the mural last fall, with his muse and wife, Terry. The couple met Gayle Primeau when they got involved with Sturgeon Falls Beautification, and things evolved from there. Don has been involved with various arts for a long time. “I’ve drawn my whole life,” he reminisces. “As a teenager I used to airbrush t-shirts for kids, and if anyone needed a sign or a poster, I did those.” He tells of the time he met famous Canadian artist A.Y. Jackson – by accident. “He had a cottage in the Notre Dame Mountains in Quebec, on the way to Gaspé. We had a gymnastics camp there and we had hikes on the weekend. One weekend we went hiking past his cottage, a guy was sitting there painting and so I went over, talking to him. I found out a year or so later that it was A.Y. Jackson. We were talking about what he was painting, the landscape.”

That wasn’t his only early brush with well known artists. “When I was really young, the house next to us was owned by Robert Rousill, who years later became the sculptor laureate of Quebec…  I was about 4 or 5. Roussill used to do art classes, he had shows, and he got the people in the community involved. I won a prize – caramel chocolates. It was a drawing of an [upside down curve] with two dots, like the boogie man, or a ghost with eyes. He loved it! He moved his family to France a few years later, to a castle. I really liked his stuff. He had a huge tree stump right by the bus stop, he carved it – said it was a woman.” The modernistic style was more of an impression, said Clendenning. “Okay, it’s a woman – smooth lines,” he smiles.

Clendenning relates further tales of his forays into the arts, and artistic friends and acquaintances. “Mark Trent, he was a friend who had a few shows around North America… He called once, at 2 or 3 in the morning, in Montreal– ‘You’ve got to come over! You’ve got to see this!’ He lived on Sherbrooke Street. So, Dave (another friend) and I got on the bikes to go uptown. We go into the place he’s on the couch on one end of the room, and he says “You’ve got to look at that!” He’s looking at the wall. He has a picture frame hanging on a nail, with a peanut butter sandwich nailed inside, and he’s blown away, he’s amazed.”

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