One of the many wonderful things I remember about the first trip that my wife and I made to our future home of Victoria over 20 years ago was the stunning, full-sized whale mural on the side of the building that is home to Chandlers restaurant facing the Johnson Street bridge.
The mural was erected by the Wyland Foundation in memory of Canadian wildlife filmmaker Robin Morton and officially dedicated by local artist Robert Batemen just a few days before my bride and I wed in 1987. The 130-foot wide by seven storey-high mural depicts the A-5 Pod of Orcas who live in our coastal waters.
Twenty-five years later, I’m pleased to say that my marriage has survived both the calm and stormy weather of life. However, the same can’t be said of our city’s poor mural. Fading into a ghost of its former self, this spectacular gift is too precious to be allowed to disappear.
It is strange that a mural of this size, that has attracted tourists and whale lovers for decades, has not only been ignored but allowed to become a shabby embarrassment of our city’s former glory.
With so many wonderful artists having fallen in love with Victoria and willing to share their passion, I would think it’s a relatively easy task for the city to organize a restoration group of volunteers to bring the whales back to their awe-inspiring majesty.
I feel partly to blame, too, as I had planned to highlight this mural to the city as part of its 150th anniversary in the hopes of garnering funds to see it restored. But, as is often the case with good intentions, I became too busy with other things.
I talked to the Wyland Foundation this week and was told that the cost of having them restore the mural to its prime is $65,000 US, paid as a donation to the charity. Not bad, but I think a local artist co-operative could be a better option. M